Police were yesterday called to intervene in a dispute between a Dutch-speaking man and the staff of a coronavirus testing centre at Merode in Brussels.
The man came for testing to the centre, and sought to be assisted in Dutch – which ought in principle to be possible. However at that time there was no-one available to help him in Dutch, which led to a dispute. Staff at the centre called the police.
The test centre in Etterbeek is set up with the help of the local commune, and is organised by the Communal Community Council – the body that brings together representatives of the French-speaking community and the Flemish community.
Staff on the ground, however, are representatives of the French-speaking Red Cross.
The man himself, named only as Wim, contacted Bruzz with his story.
“When I arrived, the steward spoke to me in French. I answered that I want to be helped in Dutch. The person just continued in French, after which I asked him again to speak to me in Dutch,” he said. “Another steward then joined and spoke to me in French as well.”
When Wim said he would like to be helped in Brussels in Dutch, the man replied that “things in Brussels are done in French”.
The police were called, and a police spokesperson said their aim was to calm the situation.
“That happened pretty quickly and the man left.”
The police themselves were able to give the man the help he needed.
All government institutions in Brussels must offer bilingual services, stressed Etterbeek councillor for Dutch-speaking affairs, Frank Van Bockstal (CD&V).
“We’re not talking about defending an academic thesis in Dutch,” he said. “It’s only about basic help and courtesy in Dutch to help people find their way. You just have to be able to say: line up here, keep your distance. This escalation is not acceptable during a health crisis.”
Wim, meanwhile, had to join the end of a long queue after the incident, and chose instead to leave. He took a test later at the testing station in Zaventem, in Flemish Brabant.
Last week a similar situation arose at a testing station at Heysel in Brussels, when a Dutch-speaking woman looking for information was answered only in French,