The prosecutor’s office for Antwerp has opened a murder investigation after the body of a nine-year-old boy was found at a centre for asylum-seekers in the commune of Ranst in Antwerp province. The boy, named only as Daniel, was in the centre with his 26-year-old mother, both of them Palestinian refugees. The cause of death has not yet been revealed.
Federal minister for asylum Maggie De Block reacted: “I am following the situation closely, and I am, together with Fedasil, ensuring the support for the mother and family, who are deeply affected. It is one thing to lose a child, but to do so in these circumstances is the worst thing that could happen to a mother. The staff of the asylum centre have also been deeply affected by what has happened.”
The Antwerp prosecutor’s office has appointed an investigating magistrate to the case, which is being treated as a case of murder. A crime scene team and pathologist have already been active at the site of the discovery of the body, and five suspects have been interviewed.
The boy is thought to have been cycling in the grounds of the centre at Broechem on Monday evening when he was reported missing. The bicycle was found later, the boy reported missing before his body was discovered in a ditch.
On Twitter, prime minister Charles Michel expressed his support for the staff of the federal asylum agency Fedasil. “I wish to express my sincere condolences following the tragic death of a child,” Michel wrote. “An investigation is now under way, independent and transparent. Those guilty will be punished.”