I’d been off Facebook for a while. I’d had enough of it; most of all, I didn’t find any social usefulness to this media.
And yet its a damned useful information relay, as long as censorship doesn’t cut us off.
I’ve come back to it in the past few days and, every time, I leave it moved because in Belgium, a movement has found its place there.
In Brussels in the midst of a full-blown migratory crisis and, more specifically in the neighborhood of the Aliens’ Office (Office des étrangers) where asylum seekers, migrants and refugees take shelter, at the Gare du nord and in the neighboring park, the famous parc Maximilien, a citizens’ network has taken shape.
A resistance movement. Resistance against a Belgian policy in which many no longer recognize themselves, a policy of which several of us are ashamed.
For the past few years, refugees, most of them from Sudan, Erythrea and Syria, set up makeshift encampments at the Gare du nord and in parc Maximilien. A stopover on their objective: England.
I don’t need to describe their daily life and their living conditions. And when fall comes along with its torrential rain, it turns into hell on earth.
Not surprisingly, Théo Francken (N.VA), Secretary of State responsible for Asylum and Immigration, does not see it this way.
He demands a « clean-up » (cf. his Twitter account) using methods applied under fascist regimes. Anything goes. No, this is not a movie. This is “Bruxelles ma belle“.
The police sees to organizing the roundups and the tracking, confiscating and destroying of what is left of their wordly goods including their sleeping bags which are cut up with scissors, along with those tiny little things that are all that’s left of what a person holds dear.
Recently, this same Théo Francken called on the Sudanese government to send over civil servants charged with identifying their nationals. Lest we forget : the Sudanese head of State is charged with genocide and crimes against humanity before the International Criminal Court.
In the meantime, the police does a thorough job of « cleanup ». But there are also volunteers ready to do the dirty work. Humiliation and harassment are the standing directives concerning refugees (minors included), associations, volunteers and anyone who refuses to look the other way.
The policy of the worst-case scenario is applied in order to discourage these persons of seeking exile and of leaving their country where, we mustn’t forget, their lives are in danger. The policy of dispersion and invisibility. Putting away these refugees means hiding them from view, cleaning up as if they didn’t exist. European hypocrisy.
Same as in France, with the migrant encampments at Porte de la Chapelle. Same struggle.
Repression as only response to the word-wide drama.
Now, like many others, I am part of the Facebook group Plateforme citoyenne de soutien aux personnes réfugiées Bruxelles and follow their website www.bxlrefugees.be.
This group functions as a space for information and coordination of citizen actions and initiatives of solidarity with asylum seekers and refugees in Brussels and Belgium overall.
35 723 people presently follow this group.
“Hébergement plateforme citoyenne” (Citizen Shelter Platform) is one of the possible actions suggested. In this space, anyone wishing to shelter one or several people in need for one night or several, will find the necessary information.
Last night, 122 persons found a bed, a shower, a bit of warmth, a meal, thanks to the open minds of several Belgian citizens who decided to act.
Text Sophia Yousri
Photos Mustafa Kılıç