Mireille, 57, worries about the presence of a Roma camp below her home in Molenbeek

The municipality keeps an eye on the situation but does not intend to evict the occupants.

“They are well installed and does it bother anyone?” Mireille, lives in the municipality of Molenbeek in the Brussels region. The presence of a camp near her home has been bothering her for a few months and she has let us know via the orange button Alert us. Located near the Beekkant metro station, the camp houses around twenty makeshift huts. “It looks like a small village “, specifies the 57-year-old Molenbeekoise.

The fifty-year-old lives in social housing and says she does not feel safe by the presence of people living in this camp. It was a back and forth movement towards the camp area that alerted him at the start of the year. “I saw for a long time that there were people going there. Since there was a building site, I thought to myself that they were going to steal nails or something. But seeing people coming out with planks a day, it made me tilt ‘”, she says.

Meddle with what concerns you

Mireille discovers there tin huts, packed garbage, abandoned shopping carts. She also says she observes a significant lack of hygiene. One day, Mireille calls out to one of the people who comes out of the camp with a wooden plank in hand about where it came from. The discussion is cut short. “Mind what concerns you“, one would have retorted to him accompanied by names of bird. An answer which did not satisfy the inhabitant of Molenbeek who then decided to alert the municipal authorities of their illegal presence. “I went to the commune to try to make an appointment with the bourgmestre, but no way to reach her. They gave me a telephone number where there is never anyone answering. neighborhood is never at his post. He surely does his job outside. I was just able to report to social housing that I did not feel safe “, she explains.

“They are stateless”

Joined by our editorial staff, the municipality of Molenbeek says it is “attentive to the situation“near the Beekkant metro station. She was made aware of the existence of this camp on March 23 by the social housing structure on which Mireille depends. “On the initiative of Mme Moureaux (burgomaster), the problem was taken care of by the prevention and social services“Says Rachid Barghouti, press secretary of the burgomaster. About 20 people from the Roma community, childless, live in this camp according to a census of the municipality.”They are transit Roma, they come for a few weeks and leave immediately. They have no status, they are stateless “, we specify.

No eviction planned

At first, the Roma present had announced their departure for the end of March, but they ultimately did not keep their promise. “We mobilize our social services, the Roma mediators, the homeless system of the municipality and our peacekeepers who regularly go there to analyze the situation. Food aid is being considered “, specified Rachid Barghouti a few weeks ago. The land where the Roma camp is established belongs to Infrabel, manager of the rail network. The municipality says it has contacted Infrabel. The latter informed the Molenbeek authorities that she would only intervene “if there is a risk to passenger safety or to railway operations, which is not currently the case.“A position behind which the municipality also stands: “We are not intended to evict them, unless it becomes dangerous. The camp does not pose any immediate security problem with the residents“, the absence of children in the camp was added, an essential element in the position taken by the municipality of Brussels.

Two Roma mediators in the municipality of Molenbeek

The Roma, also called “gypsies” or “gypsies” is a community of around 7 million people from Eastern Europe. They would be 11,000 in Brussels, according to a 2019 count from the non-profit organization ‘Foyer’. To come into contact with this marginalized population on its territory, the municipality of Molenbeek can rely on the work and skills of two unique profiles: Roma mediators. They obviously speak the language and facilitate contact between this population and the municipal authorities. The two officials depend on the homeless cell led by Nathalie Pillippart. She tells us more about the work of these two mediators: “They are there to try to support this very particular audience. See their needs or whether there is the possibility of setting up social, professional or even educational support for the children.”

They don’t necessarily stay in one place forever

For the head of the homeless unit, the main objective is to ensure that tension-free cohabitation between residents can exist. Outside the coronavirus period, Roma mediators also organize cultural, recreational or school support projects for children from the Roma community. “My colleagues (Roma mediators) achieve a feat by supporting this audience and allowing children to enroll in schools, to follow a school curriculum.

Anthropologist by training, Nathalie Pillippart evokes an audience “particular“to talk about the Roma: “It really is a world apart. Their conception of setting up somewhere is not the same as everyone. There are comings and goings. They don’t necessarily stay in one place forever. They are moving. There are times when we tend to return home, and others when we come back. We do not have the same conception of public space, of location, of living space, etc. “, she specifies, without proclaiming herself a specialist, far from it.

The area around the Beekkant metro will be redeveloped

At the latest news, the Roma mediators went to the site of the camp in Beekkant and noted that a camp was deserted. However, “The huts are still there. To our knowledge, they are not in the town. That’s what is complicated. All of a sudden, they disappear. We don’t know when, how, or towards where. left some objects, maybe they will come back? Anything is possible“, remarks Nathalie Pillippart. For Mireille who lives a few meters from the camp, the” tenants “of the camp have not left and they would continue to join the place regularly.

New in sight

If Mireille says she does not feel safe, it is also linked to the insalubrity and the overall dilapidation of the neighborhood. “I am more and more afraid to go out in this neighborhood. The metro is dirty and ugly. It’s been more than five years since the footbridge of the station was dismantled, the tarpaulins flew away. The neighborhood is ugly. ”

A finding that seems to be shared by the municipal authorities, since Jef Van Damme, alderman for public works in Molenbeek has just announced in early May “redevelopment of the area around the Beekkan metrot.” This is a 15,000 m² project, for a budget of over 3 million euros. “One of our biggest projects“, he specifies.”The project foresees not only a complete renovation of the existing Beekkant Square, but also an enlargement of the public space. Part of the abandoned West Station site will be turned into a public park. ”

In addition, negotiations are underway between Infrabel and the Brussels Region to find out what will happen to the land belonging to the rail network manager. Land where members of the Roma community are currently living.

Mireille, who has lived in the area for 20 years, obtained another accommodation from her social institution a few days ago, 3 kilometers away a few days ago. “All this too stressful insecurity was preventing me from sleeping “. His suitcases are ready for early June.

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