Residents of 'Schaerbeek squat' to be evacuated and given new place to shelter

Residents of 'Schaerbeek squat' to be evacuated and given new place to shelter
The Schaerbeek squat was occupied for months by several asylum seekers who were not given shelter. Credit: Belga/ James Arthur Gekiere.

The so-called Schaerbeek squat which mostly shelters asylum seekers will be evacuated, with its current residents to be given proper accommodation instead, the City of Brussels announced in a press release on Thursday. The Brussels Region, the commune of Schaerbeek and the Federal Government have come to a decision and will now begin rolling out the plan.

The building at Rue des Palais 48 (known as Palais des Droits or the Schaerbeek squat) has been occupied for three months. Over the past months, the number of people in the building kept increasing due to the ongoing asylum reception crisis while conditions deteriorated, resulting in the current situation of unprecedented magnitude.

The authorities had not wanted to evacuate the residents without knowing exactly who they were. Once it was discovered that 735 of the 784 people in the squat are asylum seekers, the authorities began talking about taking action.

Finally, a plan has been developed among the various involved parties under the coordination of which aims to relocate the squat residents, giving them proper accommodation and emptying the building to start renovation works.

By Monday 13 February, over 700 of the asylum seekers will have been evacuated and given accommodation elsewhere. The nex day, those still in the building who voluntarily agree to do so, will be sheltered elsewhere by the Brussels government and receive assistance through a medical counselling initiative coordinated by the services of the United College of the Common Community Commission (GGC), the press release reads.

The next day, 15 February, the building on Rue des Paleis will be completely emptied with the help of police forces. An information campaign has already been launched inside the building to make the residents aware of what is to come and how the evacuation will take place.

Both organisations providing assistance to the homeless and migrants (SamuSocial, BelRefugees and the Red Cross) and associations working with people with addictions (Transit, Lama, CoVeR) will participate in the initiative.

Tweet translation: On Tuesday we want to transfer the last asylum seekers from Paleizenstraat to reception. Important to put an end to harrowing conditions in the building. The reception crisis is not over, I will continue to work on reception and structural reforms. Thanks to all partners for cooperation

The BGHM (Brussels Regional Housing Company) has owned the building since 31 January with the eventual objective of converting it into housing that is easier to access for economically disadvantaged people. However, while the permits are not yet finalised and plans are pending, the building will be converted into a reception centre that meets hygiene, infrastructure and safety standards, according to the press release. Once the evacuation is complete, works can begin.

"Every effort has been made to allow this evacuation to take place peacefully," Brussels Prime Minister Rudi Vervoort said. "It is thanks to the joint and coordinated efforts of everyone that we have found decent solutions for the residents of the Palace to stay." He went on to thank the authorities and administrations involved as well as the association partners for their work over the past weeks to "end this particularly difficult and inhumane situation."

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