15,000 join "Refugees Welcome" solidarity march in Brussels

Between 15,000 and 20,000 people have joined a march to support the refugees coming into Belgium. On a sunny afternoon in Brussels, they walked from the North Station to the Jubelpark to call refugees welcome, to demand better conditions for them in reception centres and to urge politicians to take measures against racism and xenophobia.

Police said that 15,000 people had turned up, organisers claimed 20,000 showing their sympathy.

The initiative for the solidarity march was taken by the Civil Platform and Refugees Welcome, an umbrella organisation representing Vluchtelingenwerk Vlaanderen, Amnesty International, 11.11.11 and Doctors of the World. The march started at the North Station around 2:30pm.

"The message we want to spread is that refugees are welcome here. We are rich enough and we live in good circumstances which should allow us to receive them properly", one of the demonstrators told the VRT. "It's rubbish this wouldn't be possible because we already too many."

The influx of refugees has sparked a public and political debate. Right-wing parties such as the Flemish nationalists of N-VA and Flemish liberals voiced second thoughts or urged for stricter conditions for refugees to benefit from the Belgian social security system. N-VA leader Bart De Wever said that refugees coming to Western Europe are just economic migrants since they are not in danger in refugee camps in countries like Turkey and Lebanon, suggesting they actually have no proper reason to come to Belgium.

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