Belgium: Buses diverted from Brussels migrant quarter over violence threat

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The Brussels transport company MIVB will change its route in Molenbeek, a neighborhood known for its heavy migrant population, after buses were pelted with stones several times. 

According to STIB bus branch, the safety of its drivers could no longer be guaranteed, which logically justified the decision, reports Brussels-based French-language Belgian news portal La Dernière Heure (DH).

The route change concerns line 89 of the STIB, which runs through the center of Molenbeek in Brussels. Bus drivers there have been victims of violence numerous times in recent weeks. That is why STIB has decided to divert the buses and no longer serve a number of stops in Molenbeek, with the change affecting four stops between Delacroix and Ribaucourt.

“Several incidents took place in the center of the city,” said STIB spokesman Cindy Arents to DH. “There are tensions in this district and, moreover, many cars regularly park at the bus stops, so that the buses cannot pass there.” The safety of STIB personnel could no longer be guaranteed, it still presents a threat, which forced them to take this measure.

Molenbeek, one of the 19 municipalities within the Belgian capital, has some 97,000 inhabitants of which almost 40 percent are Belgian Moroccan Muslim and youth unemployment in the district is also 40 percent. Molenbeek gained international fame in 2015 as a base for the Islamist terrorists who perpetrated attacks in France and Belgium. Then Molenbeek mayor, liberal politician Françoise Schepmans, described it as “a breeding ground for violence”. 

Recently, data released by the Belgian government showed that ethnic Belgians had become a minority in the capital of Brussels, pointing to rapid demographic change in the multicultural city. 

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