Series

Migrants and Citizens

John Vink

When the “Calais Jungle” was dismantled a little more than one year ago, many migrants headed for Brussels to seek an alternative opportunity of crossing the Channel.
They hang around the North Station in Brussels, mingling with refugees or refugee candidates to exchange information. Refugees wait for their status to be legalised, migrants wait before trying to board a truck heading for Great Britain, paying as much as 800€ to traffickers.
As the Belgian authorities are reluctant to set up a proper infrastructure to host them, several networks of Belgian volunteers spontaneously took shape, among them “Plateforme Citoyenne de Soutien aux Réfugiés”, “Belgium Kitchen”, “United Stages” or informal groups of people, sometimes coming all the way from Liège or Mons. Through Facebook and a database of nearly 30000 addresses of Belgian citizens they provide the migrants and the refugees with food, clothing and information, and, in response to police raids rounding some of them up to send them back or elsewhere, organise and coordinate transportation to bring them to families or theatres hosting them for a few nights.
Each night some 300 migrants and refugees are legally hosted. If it is indeed illegal for Belgian citizens to host people who are entered illegally in the country, it is also perfectly legal to host them for humanitarian reasons.

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