Murder of African prostitute triggers soul-searching in Brussels

Bianca Debaets, the equal opportunities junior minister in the Brussels regional government, has criticised several Brussels mayors with important red light districts in their municipalities.  Ms Debaets urges greater co-operation between the City of Brussels, Schaarbeek and Sint-Joost following the murder of an African prostitute. "Each mayor is pursuing his own policies and there's no global approach" she says.

Bianca Debaets: "The death of the prostitute shows the need for a different and co-ordinated approach.  It's even worse in the City of Brussels where there are streetwalkers.  Local people have been asking for action for years, but nothing happens."

"I have no say in this matter, but we should look at other cities.  Antwerp's efforts have met with success."

In Antwerp the size of the red light district near the port was reduced.  Over a decade twenty-five streets have been brought down to three.

Bianca Debaets: "Villa Tinto is a property with rooms for prostitutes.  The area gets support and is checked by the police.  The area is undergoing gentrification.  In Brussels nobody wishes to live in the North District.  In Antwerp all prostitutes have an alarm bell in their room.  There's far less nuisance out on the street too!"

"That's what makes me cross about the City of Brussels.  Street prostitution is left be.  The City bans it and it simply moves to Sint-Joost or Schaarbeek.  There needs to be a global approach."

Ms Debaets notes that Schaarbeek has made headway in recent years.

Bernard Clerfayt, the Mayor of Schaarbeek, says that the red light district around the Brussels North Station is spread across Schaarbeek and Sint-Joost.  In the past there has been agreement between the two boroughs and the federal and local police.  "But now Emir Kir, the Mayor of Sint-Joost, has decided to follow different policies" he adds.