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Belgium unveils plans to help terror victims before anniversary

Published on 14/03/2018

One week before the second anniversary of the Brussels suicide bombings, the Belgian government unveiled plans Wednesday to establish one point of contact for victims frustrated in their bid for compensation.

In January, survivors and relatives of victims complained publicly that steps for compensation were too complex and accused the authorities of having “abandoned” them.

“It has been decided to establish this one point of contact within the federal prosecutor’s office because it has been involved in the events from the start,” government officials said in statement.

The prosecutor’s office has led the investigation into the suicide attacks at a Brussels metro station and the city’s airport that killed 32 people and wounded 230 others on March 22, 2016.

Those attacks were claimed by the Islamic State group.

In their joint statement, the ministers of justice, health and defence did not say when the new administrative unit would be set up.

But it said it will “guarantee that all care service providers offer the same information about the legislation and procedures to follow.”

Belgian authorities — heavily criticised immediately after the attacks for intelligence and security failings — promised a year ago to grant a “status of national solidarity” to terror victims, guaranteeing them financial aid for life.

But the V-Europe victims association said at a news conference in January that the government was still not doing enough.

One of the coordinators of the group, Thomas Savary, took a wait-and-see attitude toward Wednesday’s announcement.

“Promises are good. Actions are better. We will see how this is put in place,” Savary told AFP.

Savary, a relative of a woman killed at Zaventem airport, said the July 2017 Belgian law on “national solidarity” for terror victims had just begun to be applied.

He said only 40 of the 510 files for determining the level of compensation for the March 22 victims have “been settled.”

The attacks were carried out by a Franco-Belgian group of young men that was also linked to the November 2015 Paris attacks.