Local people living in the Matongé quarter of Ixelles have demanded action from the municipality of Ixelles to combat what they see as growing lawlessness in the neighbourhood.
Bruzz visited the neighbourhood, and reported drugs dealers operating openly in the shopping arcades, as well as litter, refuse and filth everywhere, including human waste.
And the disorder is not confined to the public areas. Upstairs from the main arcade that runs from Chaussée de Wavre through to Chaussée d’Ixelles are apartments, whose residents have to run the gauntlet of criminal and filth each time they enter or leave their homes.
“Dealers or vagrants sometimes come here to relieve themselves,” one tenant told the reporter. “It also happens that they keep their supplies here, in the living area.”
Finally, after many complaints, emails and photos sent to the commune, the councillor for public order, Nabil Messaoudi (PS) came from the town hall further up the Chaussée d’Ixelles to pay a visit, to inspect the situation for himself. He was accompanied by party colleague Bea Diallo, standing in for mayor Christos Doulkeridis (Ecolo), who was indisposed.
The commune of Ixelles is not just the local authority, it is also the owner of the public areas of the gallery, and as such, according to one apartment owner, has a responsibility to act on two fronts – as landlord and as public authority.
“Around about election time everything here is spotless. But after that it goes back to being a disaster,” said Giselle Emungu. She is particularly outraged by the impunity allowed to the dealers.
“What they’re doing is illegal, isn’t it? Belgium is supposed to be a country of laws, right? Why is nothing being done? I might as well have stayed in Congo.”
According to Messaoudi, solutions are not so easy to come by.
“A cleaning team from the municipality comes every day at 3 pm,” he told Bruzz. “They clean everything, but afterwards other activities take place here. We issue fines and have organised a clean-up campaign. But I’ve lived in Ixelles all my life, and there have always been problems here. These problems also occur in other parts of Brussels.”
Later, Doulkeridis related the age-old problem of drugs policing: the minute the police show up, the dealers vanish into the landscape. One worker arrived to install a CCTV at the entrance to the gallery and was warned by youths that they intended to smash it before he had even left.
The problem is one to be tackled at the federal level, he said.
In the meantime, he hoped to recruit the people of the area for local actions.
“We want to focus on positive projects,” he said. “The neighbourhood should be known for things other than the problems that exist now. We want to support the traders and create a different image of the neighbourhood. There is a budget for that, but the corona crisis has prevented us from getting started for a year.”
A response to which Giselle Emungu had a brief, withering response.
“I thought they weren’t aware of what was going on here, but they are,” she said. “I just don’t understand why they don’t do something.”