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Report: 19 Belgian municipalities suggest sites for youth detention centres

Illustration picture shows the IPPJ detention center for youths in Braine-le-Chateau. (BELGA PHOTO ERIC LALMAND)
06:07 03/08/2021

According to a newspaper report published on Monday, 19 municipalities have proposed sites to house detention centres for convicted juveniles as part of justice minister Vincent Van Quickenborne’s plan to solve the problem of overcrowding in Belgian prisons.

At the end of 2020, the justice minister sent a letter to the governors of Belgium's provinces, asking them to propose places to set up the proposed detention centres, which are expected to accommodate a maximum of between 40 and 70 detainees. According to the report, published in the Sudpresse newspaper, proposals have since been submitted and analysed.

"All the governors reacted,” Van Quickenborne was quoted as saying in response to a question submitted in parliament. “They forwarded the information to the various mayors in order to see if buildings that could accommodate detention centres were available. Analysis of their portfolios has made it possible to identify real opportunities. However, we continue to explore other alternatives."

According to the Sudpresse report, proposed sites are being analysed in Anderlecht, Godenaarde, Kortrijk, Dinant, Flémalle, Ghent, Genk, Huy, Liedekerke, Marneffe, Mol, Namur, Ninove, Ostend, Schaerbeek, Steenokerzeel, Roeselare, Wortel and Xhoris.

However, this news came as a surprise to Fabrice Cumps, the mayor of Anderlecht, who claimed that he had "no idea what this is all about" when he learned that his commune was a candidate for a detention centre for convicted juveniles.

"I have had no contact with anyone on this subject and it seems particularly inappropriate to me given the number of challenges that our municipality is already facing," he told RTBF.

There was similar confusion in Schaerbeek where mayor Cécile Jodogne admitted to vaguely remembering a meeting on the subject "but this did not lead to any commitment on our part".

When contacted by RTBF, a spokesperson for justice minister Van Quickenborne said that some clarifications were made on this subject several months ago.

It was then decided that several solutions to the overcrowding problem would be discussed, and the first contacts made, without any commitment being obtained. The office of the justice minister therefore denied the existence of a list of 19 participating municipalities. 

Written by Nick Amies