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Church management take legal action to end Béguinage occupation

13:37 23/01/2022

The public association responsible for managing the Béguinage church in central Brussels is taking legal action in order to end the occupation of the church by undocumented migrants.

It has hired a lawyer to initiate proceedings with a justice of the peace. A judgment is expected for the end of January or the beginning of February.

The occupation began in January 2021 at the initiative of the Union of Undocumented Migrants for Regularisation.

Between the end of May and the end of July, the church was the headquarters of a hunger strike of more than 400 people who demanded the establishment of regularisation criteria for economic migrants who have been present for many years in Belgium.

There are now around 20 occupants still living in the church. Organisations are trying to find them housing. This does not mean that people will be evicted, but that a justice of the peace will assess the situation.

According to Karen Naessens, coordinator of La Maison de la Compassion: “Since the announcement of the decision to end the occupation, calls have been circulating on social networks to resume the occupation. After long-term actions, people are exhausted and those who had the energy to calm the situation are no longer there.

"We realize that these periods are more particularly dangerous and that safety is no longer guaranteed. We do not have the resources of organisations like the Red Cross and we don't have the people necessary to monitor the site all the time to ensure that there is no conflict.

"Damages related to the occupation need to be repaired. In particular, electric cables were damaged and power was cut to avoid an incident."

Naessens added: "Undocumented people can continue to come to the church during the day to organise their political struggle, but sleeping there is no longer an option."

Father Daniel Alliët added: "The end of the occupation does not in any way mean the end of our solidarity with undocumented migrants. We will continue to defend the rights of undocumented migrants."

Written by Richard Harris