Two women arrested as protestors continue to oppose detention of migrant families

Peaceful Assembly

On 19th August the Brussels police arrested two women as they protested bare-chested on the flower carpet at Brussels Grand-Place against the Belgian government’s decision to detain migrant children in a closed centre in Steenokkerzeel. The two protesters wore only shoes and underwear and held a banner saying:

“This is not a scandal, but locking children up is” 

Although the women confirmed they were not part of the feminist protest movement Femen, they said their protest was intended to pay homage to the movement's founder Oksana Shachko, who was found dead in her Paris apartment in July 2018. The protesters were questioned by police and freed a couple of hours later. A police report on the case will be submitted to the Office of the Public Prosecutor of Brussels. 

Protests against the detention of the children have continued since June 2018, as the government's decision to keep migrant families, including children, in a detention centre led to outrage and the establishment of the #NotInMyName movement.

A few days before the protest, a group of around 600 people protested in central Brussels against locking up families in Steenokkerzeel. On that occasion, the protest passed off peacefully. As previously reported on the Monitor, earlier protests at the detention site led to a complaint being filed by the migration secretary Theo Francken for damage to the roof of the detention centre. In 2010 and 2011, Belgium was convicted three times by the European Court of Human Rights for the practice of detaining minors. 

Expression

On 8th May 2018, a new Belgian law came into force requiring journalists based in the country to pay €50 ($58) for mandatory six-monthly security screenings needed to attend summits of EU leaders. Journalists based outside Belgium who travel into the country to attend summits will not be charged. The law was introduced without warning or consultation with journalists, thus the fee came to their attention only in late July, when the European Council issued its invitation to accredit journalists for the next quarterly summit in October 2018. Both the European Commission and the European Council expressed concerns about the new legislation. The International Press Association (API-IPA) called the charge “an unnecessary obstacle” to reporting and is considering filing a complaint against Belgium with the European Commission for discrimination and violation of press freedom.