The Citizens’ Platform, which organises shelter for refugees not yet entered into the asylum system, has re-opened its shelter known as the Ulysses Gate, following disturbances on Sunday which forced closure on Tuesday. The centre provides beds for around 200 refugees who are waiting to be processed as asylum-seekers by the Office for Foreigners. Once that is done, they are eligible for entry into government-run centres while their applications are considered.
In the meantime, the Citizens’ Platform has picked up the slack, beginning in September last year and growing out of a spontaneous movement of volunteers who came together the year before to provide food, tents and blankets for refugees – including families with children – sleeping rough in the Parc Maximilien near the headquarters of the Office for Foreigners.
Last weekend, fights broke out at the former office building in Haren known as the Ulysses Gate, causing damage to the building now used by the Platform as a shelter. The damage was such that it was not safe to allow the refugees back in, and they were once more exiled to the park while a clean-up went ahead. That has now been completed.
The problem was caused by a new influx of refugees demanding shelter and services they were not receiving elsewhere, despite the fact that that facilities at the Ulysses Gate are stretched to breaking point.
Meanwhile the city of Brussels, via mayor Philippe Close, has promised increased police protection in and around the park, which is still home to many refugees, and where tensions are also high, with fights in food lines and complaints of disrespect and insults aimed at volunteer workers.