Tuesday, 14 May 2019
Tensions over the ongoing situation in Brussels’ Gare du Nord continue to brew, after one bus company dismissed a warning from local authorities that they could be fined if they did not resume service in the station. The mayor of Schaerbeek, where the station is situated, said that buses from transport company De Lijn were not authorized to continue stopping in the station’s surrounding areas, and warned that they could be fined if they continued doing so.
Since May 6, De Lijn and STIB buses no longer stop at the station —where migrants and homeless people have camped out for more than a year— complaining about cleanliness and citing sanitary concerns.
“I don’t want to have to fine the drivers, I want De Lijn to be a part of the solution,” Schaerbeek mayor Bernard Clerfayt said. “Migrants are still in the station, but we are working to find a solution with all the parties concerned.”
Unlike De Lijn, Brussels transport operator STIB has attributed stops near the station and does not risk a fine.
According to reports on local media, representatives from De Lijn on Monday brushed the warning aside and insisted that unless a “structural solution” was found, its bus drivers would continue to bypass the Gare du Nord stop.
Migrants and homeless people have been living in one of the halls of the station for nearly a year, prompting complains about cleanliness and reports that some of the station’s inhabitants are carrying disease.
Even though contagion rumours have been disproved by humanitarian NGOs operating in the station, the move by both transport companies has exacerbated public concern about the spread of disease.
Last week, Brussels’ public cleaning agency said that, as a precautionary measure, it would vaccinate its staff against two types of Hepatitis.
A solution is yet to be found to overcome the current standstill in the station, which has become a symbol of political divisions over migration policy in Belgium, as local and federal authorities continue blaming each other for the situation.
The Brussels Times