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Drugs in Brussels: Mayor Philippe Close calls for crisis centre to treat addicts
Brussels mayor Philippe Close hopes to see a crisis centre for drug addicts open by the end of the year, reports RTBF.
The facility would be a collaboration with Brugmann hospital, offering detox treatment for addicts, among other services.
"Nobody wants to promote drugs. Everyone wants people not to fall into this [drug addiction], but it is clear that today, drugs are spreading in our society,” he said.
The mayor's comments, amid increasing concern over insecurity at Brussels-Midi station, highlighted a need for long-term solutions in consultation with regional and federal governments.
He called on other political authorities to take a pragmatic approach to the problem of drug addiction. "There is a sense of absolute urgency. The police and justice must continue to fight hard against drug trafficking but other responses are necessary.”
Close said that the place for drug users was in a care structure, not a police cell. The new project would enable officers to take addicts directly to the crisis centre at Brugmann rather than a police station.
“That's why we questioned security professionals and police officers, but also doctors and psychologists, asking them to come up with a plan for us. I hope that by the end of the year we will be able to put the project into practice," he added.
Second drug consumption space in Brussels
The mayor was instrumental in the opening of Brussels’ first open drug space in 2022. A second harm reduction centre is planned for 2027, but Close wants the region to speed up the project.
“If it takes that long, I will finance the opening of such an infrastructure myself by next year. The urgency is too great. We cannot wait four years to open it. I’m asking to shorten the procedures or set up a temporary structure."
New security measures for Brussels-Midi station
The mayor’s comments followed SNCB’s calls for help in improving public safety at Brussels-Midi station, which is frequented by homeless people and drug users.
While pointing out that as mayor of Brussels he was not responsible for the station, he said more cooperation was necessary between all political levels.
Meanwhile, the federal government has announced a series of short and medium term measures to restore security in and around the station.
These efforts would be coordinated by the national crisis centre, according to a joint statement by prime minister Alexander De Croo and interior minister Annelies Verlinden.
The action plan is based on three axes. The first would focus on fighting against criminal and illegal activity, led by police services and the foreigners’ office.
The second would target the problem of homelessness, addiction, drug addiction and cleanliness, under the responsibility of Brussels regional services, local municipalities and federal health and immigration services, supported by the national drug commission.
Finally, the third axis would adapt existing infrastructure to have a "significant impact on improving safety around the station building," according to the statement. It also mentioned reinforcing video surveillance in and around the station.
Photo: Philippe Close at the opening of the Gate-Transit open drug space in Brussels in 2022 ©Belga