Over the past few months Mr Smet has received reports of a number of incidents of alleged racism. One of the complainants alleged that firemen through a banana at a group of black people. Facebook posts that could be interpreted as being of a racist nature have also come to light as have reports of fire fighters using racist language while at work.
Speaking on VRT Radio Flemish Brabant and Brussels, the Secretary of State said “This is despite fire fighters on the ground telling me that they combat racism”.
“Nevertheless, it is important that we investigate the culture within the fire service. Are there individual cases of racism or are there structural issues? It is not because some firemen are racist that the entire service is racist. We don’t wish to generalise”.
Mr Smet added that this is why an external audit will be carried out.
“In this way we will be able to take targeted action. We need to address the problem at its root and not to let it continue”.
The audit investigation will take several months. “It is important that this is done thoroughly and that if necessary a plan of action can be drawn up”.
The Secretary of State added that there is a lack of diversity within the Fire Service and that it doesn’t reflect the make-up of the population of the capital at large. “It is very white, there are very few people from a migration background and also particularly few women in the service. This is why it is important to bring the Fire Service more into the city. Very many young boys of all ethnicities look up to the Fire Service. Let us make the connection so that they become interested in joining the Fire Service. That is the big challenge before us”, Mr Smet concluded.