Body of 9-year-old boy found in asylum centre, Asylum Minister shocked

The corpse of a 9-year-old Palestinian boy has been found in a reception centre for asylum seekers in Broechem, near Ranst (Antwerp province). There are clues that the boy died a violent death; five suspects have been apprehended. The new Asylum and Migration Minister Maggie De Block is in shock: "This is very serious. We will find an answer to the various questions, and punish those who are guilty."

The boy was staying in the asylum centre with his 26-year-old mother . He went missing around 10 PM on Monday, when he was cycling on the site. Police came to the site and soon found the bicycle, but the boy had vanished. Various searches were set up, but proved fruitless. Yesterday, the body of the boy was discovered in a ditch on the large premises. 

An autopsy is taking place and an investigation has been started. Five suspects were apprehended, all of them young Palestinians. One of these five is a minor who will turn 18 next month, and three were staying in the asylum centre. Four suspects are being kept behind bars after being questioned. 

"This is a drama for everybody. We have never seen anything like this", Mieke Candaele of the federal asylum seekers' service Fedasil told reporters. The centre for asylum seekers in Broechem is an open centre. The boy was going to school in the area.  While it is an open centre, residents need a badge to get inside. 

We will find those responsible and they will be punished

Asylum Minister Maggie De Block was also in shock, and Prime Minister Charles Michel expressed his condolences. De Block said that "this is exceptional. The death of a child in an asylum centre, and a violent death as well. This is very serious. We will have to find an answer to all questions and those responsible will be punished. I will now wait for the first results of the investigation."

"I visited various asylum centres between 2011 and 2014 because there were conflicts. Many people, often traumatised, are living together there. This can create tensions and conflicts, but never so serious that they could cause the death of a child. This is very exceptional."

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