Freedom News

Brussels: Squat eviction victimises undocumented people

This Thursday, April 6 at 9am, the municipality of Ixelles evicted a squat of 7 undocumented people, applying an inhabitability order dating from October 2022, without providing rehousing. The squat located at 20 rue Élise had opened at the end of September 2022 in a building empty since 2017.

They are all ex-hunger strikers of the ULB (2021). This group of people had then lived (with other people) in a building in the See U with a temporary occupancy agreement. But they were evicted at the end of September, so they sought refuge in this empty house. The irony is that they regularly work in the construction sector and have not yet won their fight to obtain papers:

A., evicted resident: “I work hard to survive: I renovate houses for a pittance! However, I cannot find decent housing myself and I am forced to squat so as not to sleep outside or be abused by malicious landlords.”

The inhabitability order had been produced directly after a first visit of the housing, when the municipality usually gives the inhabitants time to do work before issuing this order. After support, the eviction was postponed to allow them to secure the electrical installation.

Meanwhile, negotiations had begun with the building manager; the owner had died in 2017. But they failed because of the short time (between 2 and 4 months) proposed for a temporary occupancy agreement. The manager, who wanted to sell the building empty, without paying for an eviction procedure, then pressured the municipality to apply its inhabitability order.

The electricity was certainly not up to standard (as in all occupations and squats in Brussels), but the work that had been done had brought an acceptable level of safety. The main problem was that the inhabitability order had already been produced so that if an incident occurred, the mayor would be criminally responsible.

A relocation proposal had been made in mid-December by the municipality, but it was not adjusted to the size of the group: a housing of 80m² (for 8 people at the time). No suitable alternative housing has been found despite the mayor having an obligation to rehouse people when giving an inhabitability order.

About fifteen people were present to support the inhabitants and denounce the eviction, which is the result of dysfunction within the municipality of Ixelles. A banner, slogans to challenge the neighbours, confetti and ironic applause for the deployment for the occasion: dozens of police officers and the prevention service responsible for condemning the building. The inhabitants stayed a few minutes on the sidewalk before leaving with their few bags.

Ana, member of the Anti-Eviction Front: “An eviction without relocation is always a failure! There are evictions every day, our society organises them very carefully, but they take place in silence. To denounce them is to contribute to making them unacceptable. We hope that one day our society will reject this practice of humiliating and inhumane evictions.” The collective also sounds the alarm on the housing crisis in Brussels and says that the city risks experiencing a growing rate of evictions: “Rents are reaching record highs, more and more people can no longer make ends meet. If there are more and more unpaid rents, it is because they are not affordable!”

Anti-Eviction Front (Front anti-expulsions)
Brussels, Belgium
info [at] stopexpulsions [dot] be

Image: Acracia, GNU General Public License

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