A large number of asylum seekers have been sleeping rough along the canal in Molenbeek. Since mid-February, the line of tents and makeshift shelters has spread down the edge of the waterway. On Tuesday, they are finally being evacuated for rehousing.
For months on end, the pavements next to and bridge over the canal in Molenbeek Saint-Jean near Belgium’s Asylum agency Fedasil’s registration centre Petit Château have been lined with tents housing asylum seekers who were denied the shelter to which they are legally entitled in Belgium.
In recent weeks, the number of tents has risen, largely as a result of the evacuation of the so-called “squat” in Schaerbeek. The authorities promised these people accommodation elsewhere, but many instead ended up on the streets for weeks.
The municipality of Molenbeek confirmed on Tuesday that the asylum seekers who have been occupying tents along the canal have been evacuated, bringing a brief period of relief.
Tweet translation: “The tents at Petit Château are being removed. There is no clarity yet on shelter for those on the streets.”
“I am relieved to see the end of this occupation via a rehousing solution for all the asylum seekers present on the quays. Human dignity and the honour of our country are at stake,” Molenbeek’s mayor Catherine Moureaux said, adding that the increasingly concerning health situation spurred the operation.
The tents have been removed from the site and destroyed, something which was criticised by asylum seekers’ lawyers and civil society organisations. However, Moureux explained that, due to the contagious diseases identified among some people, these were not reusable and had to be taken away.