A group of around 600 people gathered last evening around the statue of Manneken Pis in central Brussels to protest the arrival of the first family of refugees, including children, at the closed centre 127bis in Steenokkerzeel just outside Brussels. Using he hashtag #NotInMyName, the group was protesting the arrival in the detention centre of the first whole family, with chants including “I am angry,” (We are all the children of immigrants” and “we don’t lock up children”.
Organisers said the action took place by Manneken Pis for symbolic reasons: he is after the only child in Brussels who deserves to be behind bars.
“There is no justification for locking these people up,” said a spokesperson for the movement. “And certainly not minors. That is why we have created a movement, so that this clandestine rule cannot just pass unseen in the middle of the summer season.”
Theo Francken, secretary of state for migration and asylum, defended a measure he said was a last resort when families refused outright to return once permission to stay in Belgium had been refused. Ten years or so ago, Belgium found itself condemned by the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg for detaining families.
“Nobody locks up children for fun,” Francken wrote on his personal blog. “I’m not doing this for my own pleasure. But in some cases it’s unavoidable. As secretary of state I have to apply the law on foreigners, and the law is clear: someone who has no right to remain in the country is in breach of the law, and has to leave,” he said.