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    Evacuations begin in Brussels under new squatting law

    ©Police photo
    ©Police photo

    Eleven people were ejected from a house on the Chaussée de Louvain in Saint-Josse in Brussels on Thursday, in the first application of a new anti-squatting law. The building has been occupied by squatters from the Roma community since September 2012. The new law came into force in October last year. The building has been the property of the Belgian state since September 2012, when it was seized in a case against a slum landlord. It was almost immediately taken over by squatters.

    Since the building is now state property, it fell to the federal finance ministry to follow the case. None of the occupants was a legal tenant, and efforts were made to convince them to leave. It was also noted that they were responsible for damage to the premises, as well as nuisance to neighbours.

    An order to quit the premises was issued in May this year, but it is not clear why, when the Roma did not comply, no further action was taken until now. All occupants were warned they would be removed by force; in addition offers of alternative accommodation were made.

    The group, four individual adults and a family of seven including two minors, eventually left peacefully and the building was secured against re-entry. One man was arrested for unrelated offences.

    Meanwhile it was reported that the province of East Flanders has proceeded to evictions under the new law in 11 premises in the province, including two that had been taken over from their legitimate owners. The majority – 15 in all – were in Ghent, with the rest in Evergem, Sint-Niklaas, Gavere, Lokeren and Zelzate.

    Alan Hope
    The Brussels Times