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Bart Dewaele

Death at Schaarbeek asylum seeker squat

Somebody died last night in the asylum seeker squat that is being cleared in the Paleizenstraat in Schaarbeek (Brussels). A pathologist has attended the scene. Prosecutors are yet to comment on the exact circumstances of the death.

Hundreds of asylum seekers and homeless people had taken up residence in the building after the Belgian authorities failed to comply with their legal requirement to offer registered asylum seekers accommodation.  In recent days the authorities started the process of offering all registered asylum seekers in the property accommodation at reception centres and the authorities were initially planning to seal the property by yesterday. Chaotic events yesterday prevented this from happening.

Early this morning fire-fighters were called to the squat after blankets caught fire.  The death is not being linked to this incident.

The property is being cleared in the course of today.  As a result of the fire remaining asylum seekers ended up outside on the pavement, but many had left their belongings inside. 

“There is enormous desperation among remaining residents” says VRT’s Marjan Temmerman.  “They are all in the street”.

Clearing the property proceeded in utter chaos yesterday.  The intention was to ferry 250 residents to a temporary reception location, but other people also eager to get accommodation mixed with the crowd.  Social workers at the scene speak of a “disastrous operation”, “misleading communication to the media” and a “total lack of communication to residents”.

In the end some 300 people stayed at the property overnight. This morning a group of residents headed for the Crossing football club in Schaarbeek where the medical screening ahead of allocation of accommodation occurs, but they were sent back and told to await the bus.

Writing on Twitter Belgian asylum secretary De Moor says “it’s dreadful that somebody has died at the Paleizenstraat squat.  I am following the case to ascertain what happened.”

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