Belgians accused of harbouring illegal immigrants acquitted

Thursday, 13 December 2018 10:07
Myrian Berghe (l) and Anouk Van Gestel Myrian Berghe (l) and Anouk Van Gestel © Belga
Four Belgian citizens accused with eight others of human trafficking have been acquitted by a court in Brussels. The four had taken in refugees who had been transported to Belgium on their way to the United Kingdom.
The case had become known as the “solidarity trial”, with the four Belgians arguing they were merely sheltering the refugees in a spirit of human compassion. Two of the accused are journalists: Myriam Berghe, a freelance reporter, and Anouk Van Gestel, editor in chef of Marie-Claire Belgique magazine. The other two acquitted were Tunisian-born Walid C. and Belgian Zakia S. The court accepted their defence that they had only become involved in the case for humanitarian reasons, when the refugees reached Belgium.

Of the eight others, one man has absconded to the United Kingdom, where he has now gone underground. He was ordered to be arrested, but a European arrest warrant has yet to be issued. The others were given suspended sentences of between 12 and 42 months.

The four accused acquitted are involved with the Platform for Refugee Support, one organisation that came to the fore in the summer of 2016 when refugees camped out en masse in the Maximilian Park in Brussels due to the lack of official accommodation for asylum-seekers. Members of the platform took refugees who had not yet been processed into their own homes. Of the four, only Walid C. served time – eight months – on remand.

“If I had it all to do over, I would do exactly the same thing,” said Myriam Berghe after the verdict. “This is my conception of hospitality. I trust these young people, and they trust me. We trust each other. We talk a lot about the hosts, but we have to think about them: it can’t be easy to move in with people you don’t know to take a shower or wash your clothes. Life for them is awful.”

Alan Hope
The Brussels Times
Google Plus

More Stories

Family of toddler shot dead by police may stay in the country

Family of toddler shot dead by police may stay in the country

The family of Mawda Shawri, the two-year-old shot dead by police during a car chase as they were entering the country illegally, have been granted a residence permit to allow them to stay in Belgium for at least a year, migration minister Maggie De Block has decided.

Saliva collection to be used to curb driving under the influence of drugs

Saliva collection to be used to curb driving under the influence of drugs

The Cabinet of Ministers on Friday approved a royal decree allowing the use of saliva collection devices to determine whether a motorist is driving under the influence of drugs.

More than half of Brussels’ homeless have lived on the streets for more than a year

More than half of Brussels’ homeless have lived on the streets for more than a year

Nearly 60% of homeless people questioned during the ‘Face-à-Face’ (Face-to-Face) action for accommodation, had not had secure and permanent accommodation for over a year.