Police in the Brussels North zone have apologised over a letter sent to schools at the beginning of this month about the conduct of “difficult” children of Syrian origin. The letter was sent to 18 schools in the police zone, which takes in the communes of Evere, Schaerbeek and Saint-Josse. It enquired about the behaviour of ten-year-old children from refugee families from Syria. Apparently, the Brussels prosecutor’s office had received a number of complaints of aggressive behaviour by those children towards classmates.
The letter was picked up by children’s welfare organisations, and their concerns about police surveillance of minor children reached the ears of Bernard De Vos, the French-speaking commissioner for children’s rights.
De Vos received a reply to his enquiries from Bernard Clerfayt, mayor of Schaerbeek and chair of the police council for the zone. Clerfayt defended the intention behind the letter: “Our police zone wants to be pro-active,” he said. “It is better to prevent than to cure.”
However, he admitted the language used in the letter was “clumsy” in describing the children concerned as “aggressive,” “difficult” and “unmanageable”.
“The schools got the impression we were asking for intelligence while at the same time giving the Syrian children a bad name,” he said. “That was not the intention. The chief of police has removed the official concerned from her position, and the letter will be amended.”