Migrant evacuation from Brussels park unrelated to Grand Départ, says city mayor

Migrant evacuation from Brussels park unrelated to Grand Départ, says city mayor
The Brussels Government on Thursday adopted a strategy paper on providing shelter, care and orientation to migrants. Credit: © Belga

The decision to evacuate a makeshift migrant camp in a park near Brussels' Gare du Nord has nothing to do with start of Grand Départ weekend in the city, Brussels Mayor Philippe Close said on Monday.

Close was questioned by city councillors at a town meeting about the timing of the city's decision to clear out the migrants camping in Brussels' Parc Maximilian just before the city is set to host the first race of the 2019 Tour de France this weekend.

Hundreds of migrants camping in the park —which is near one of the main boulevards that will be used in the first stage of the inaugurating race— were cleared out by police during the night the 28 to the 29 June.

The Socialist (PS) mayor said the information was "false," since "the Tour de France takes place during the day and not at night," according to the online news outlet.

'A safe environment'

The migrants, some of whom had already been ordered to evacuate the city's Gare du Nord in May, were again "redirected" to social housing and homeless organisations by police after 90 additional spots opened up in nearby housing centres, according to BX1.

"If the city wanted to hide these migrants, it would not have allowed the Tour de France to pass by this place," Brussels councillor for sports, Écolo's Benoît Hellings said.

Outgoing Federal Secretary for Migration, Maggie de Block —who organised the evacuation of Gare du Nord after months of government inaction pushed transport companies to pull out from the station— said concern for transport employees' working conditions were one of the motivations for the decision.

"Brussels is our capital," she said on a radio program. "The drivers that go through Gare du Nord must be able to go to work in a safe environment all year long, regardless of the Tour's départ," she said.

Gabriela Galindo

The Brussels Times

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