Almost 650 people met in Brussels on Saturday afternoon for a demonstration against poverty, organised by the Belgian Organization for Fight against the Poverty (BAPN).
The group of local associations wants the lowest incomes and benefits in Belgium to be raised to take them above the European poverty threshold. The demonstration started at the Gare du Nord railway station around 2p.m. and finished at Carrefour de l'Europe, in front of Brussel’s Central Railway Station, where people on the poverty line spoke out. Alongside associations and unions, stood the president of the Dutch Labour Party PTB/PvdA, Peter Mertens, and Ingrid Lieten (sp.a – “Socialist Party – Differently”), ex-minister for Poverty Reduction. The demonstrators sported signs with slogans such as “Poverty is a problem” or “Stop antisocial dumping of unemployed”.
Peter Heirman, from the Flemish organization against poverty said that “Today, a family with two children receives 1,089 euros to live on, while the European minimum is settled at 2,100 euros.”
The BAPN is also calling for payment of only patients’ contribution to healthcare to be made more widespread. Currently, people have to pay the full fees and are refunded only days later. Citizens on low income are able to only pay the patient’s contribution but are rarely able to.
The bottom line is that associations fear that politicians, both at federal level and in Flemish government, are pushing more and more people under the poverty threshold.
The event was organized in advance of the International Day for the Fight against Poverty on the coming October 17.