A group of approximately 50 illegal African migrants have taken occupation of a disused hotel in Saint Josse, Brussels, a local police spokesperson has confirmed.
Police officers were dispatched to the building at 312 Rue Royale on Sunday where dozens of undocumented migrants, primarily of African origin, were holed up. Brussels-North police spokesperson Audrey Dereymaeker explained the squatters were part of a collective organization which had carried out squatting operations for years in the Belgian capital.
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As per local squatting rules, the owner of the building was informed of the “seizure” and can choose whether or not to take legal action against the group of occupiers, who refer to themselves as the “undocumented volunteers in Brussels.”
The local press was told by the migrants they hope to conclude a temporary occupation agreement with the owner so that they no longer have to go homeless, according to the Brussels Times.
According to the group, the hotel has been vacant for more than a year and no application has been made for permission to renovate it. The occupiers of the building also said they had contacted the local government.
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“We have been in Brussels for years without documents,” a spokesperson for the group told reporters. “The police oppress us, whether we live on the streets or in overcrowded shelters or in expensive but low-quality apartments.”
He added that the Belgian authorities do not want to give them legal status via a work permit. Despite the government providing additional resources to accommodate asylum seekers, there has been no room in Brussels for months, evidenced by the regular lines of migrants in front of reception centers.