Around 100 Ukrainians and Moldovans evicted from building in Schaerbeek

Around 100 Ukrainians and Moldovans evicted from building in Schaerbeek
Credit: Belga

On Friday morning, around a hundred people, mostly Moldovan with some Ukrainians, were expelled from a building they had sought refuge in for several weeks, located in Schaerbeek.

Negotiations between public authorities and the occupants had appeared promising, aiming to establish a temporary occupation agreement. However, they failed to conclude on time. The owner ultimately decided to evacuate the building.

From 10:00, Brussels North police officers cleared out the former office premises located on Rue Colonel Bourg. Men, women and children, mostly undocumented, had been calling it home under precarious conditions for about two months.

The Schaerbeek municipality and the region (through the office of the Minister for Social Action Alain Maron) had voiced support for a temporary occupation agreement. This would allow the occupants to stay sheltered until the slated-for-demolition building was destroyed.

The owner, a legal entity, had never objected to signing such an agreement. However, concerns about insurance issues incompatible with the negotiation timeframes required for signing such a convention were expressed.

'Things could have been different'

An eviction order was obtained in early February. A first eviction attempt by the end of the month was prevented, primarily due to organised support for the occupants on the same day. The eviction was eventually carried out on Friday morning.

"The building evacuation occurred peacefully. No incidents were reported," confirmed the Brussels North police zone. Many occupants had left the premises on Thursday, and the rest collected their belongings on Friday morning before leaving the former office space.

Regional Minister Alain Maron expressed regret over the eviction, which affected families with children. “Multiple attempts had been made over the past weeks by concerned parties to avoid this outcome and achieve a temporary amicable solution with the owner for humanitarian reasons. But the latter preferred to request the eviction, backed by a court decision,” the Brussels minister’s office lamented.

"It’s unacceptable for families to end up on the street. Not yesterday, not today, not ever. The region does its utmost with its resources, but we also call on the federal authorities, who need to do more within their scope to provide solutions and avoid such tragic situations," Maron's office continued.

According to the occupants’ lawyer, Marine Wilmet, "Things could have transpired differently" particularly "if the authorities had reacted more swiftly to this case, which launched several weeks ago." The lack of a quick response, despite genuine willingness from all involved parties to reach an agreement, was lamented.

"I can understand why a private owner might perceive this timing issue troublesome. That being said, we still regret the final decision. As recently as Tuesday, the owner was still favourably disposed to sign an agreement," the lawyer added.

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