Police open investigation following racial harassment in Brussels fire department

Police open investigation following racial harassment in Brussels fire department
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A police investigation has been started against the person(s) who covered the helmet of a Brussels firefighter in training in racist slurs and broke into his locker to place slices of ham in it, on Tuesday.

The Brussels' fire department called in the police to help identify the person(s) responsible for the racist harassment of one of its recruits in training, and filed a complaint. The fire brigade will also start a procedure for the immediate removal of the culprit(s) from the force, regardless of what the judicial authority does, it said in a statement.

"We can only regret this incident, which is fortunately very exceptional," said Colonel Pierre Menu, the Deputy Director-General of the fire brigade. "Many of our employees are of North African origin, especially among the youngest," he added.

"In recent years, our corps has really opened up to the diversity of the Brussels population. We are all shocked by these acts that are so contrary to our values. The investigation is still ongoing and these actions will not go unpunished," he said.

Using black marker, the culprits wrote “monkey”, “go back to Molenbeek”, “Arab” and “sucker” on the back of the helmet belonging to a recruit who is of North African origin.

The same firefighter discovered on Tuesday morning that his locker had been broken into overnight. Slices of ham and a beer can had been placed among his belongings.

"It is a very difficult situation to live in, it causes a lot of stress. Racism exists in the Brussels fire brigade as it exists elsewhere, but these acts do not represent the service or my colleagues," said the targeted recruit. "I was able to take advantage of the advice of our legal service and lodged a complaint with the police. Now I would like to finish my training and join the company," he said.

"The situation touches me deeply, but the work continues to motivate me. When I joined the fire brigade, I wanted to join a large family. It is clearly not that simple, but I will not just give up. This is important to me and it is important to change people's mentality," he added.

Maïthé Chini

The Brussels Times

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