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This report is taken from PN Review 241, Volume 44 Number 5, May - June 2018.

Letter from Brussels Jamie Osborn
I

In September 2017, the Belgian minister for asylum and migration, Theo Francken, announced the arrest of fourteen African migrants in Brussels’ Parc Maximilien. Posting on Facebook, he celebrated the news with the hashtag #opkuisen – ‘opkuisen’, in Flemish, meaning a particularly unpleasant clean-up, ridding oneself of filth. Forced to defend himself, he claimed he had meant to refer to the ‘problems’ not to ‘people’.

A protest was called outside the Office des Étrangers, opposite the park. The chants could be heard several hundred metres down the street, despite the relatively small crowd. Première, deuxième, troisième génération, nous sommes tous les enfants des immigrés! So! So! So! Solidarité! Avec les sans-papiers! From the knot of people – spiky-haired women with the usual badges (Bread not bombs, Nuke-free zone, Boycott Israeli APARTHEID!), an enormously fat man with the loudspeaker, two children holding hands – bikes jutted out into the street and formed a barrier against cars passing too close. I kissed on the cheek an artist I had met a few days earlier, who would meet no one’s gaze and was constantly flicking her eyes from buildings to ground to sky so they reflected grey, brown, blue. Up against the park fence on the other side of the street was a handful of migrants, watching with curious or stony expressions. A dozen or so police officers stood round the doors of the building and beside their vans, in soft blue fleecy jackets, with guns that looked too ostentatious to be real.

Drummers arrived, beginning ...


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