Asylum seekers stage dramatic Brussels protest

20th February 2011, Comments 0 comments

Asylum seekers staged a dramatic protest in Brussels on Sunday, setting fire to a detention centre and threatening to hang themselves, Belgian media reported.

A number of demonstrators scaled the roof and attempted to escape over barricades at a secure facility at Steenokkerzeel, near the main Brussels airport, Belga news agency said.

Others threatened to hang themselves with bedding from their cell windows, with fire officers required to intervene when a blaze was started.

Police reinforcements were called to seal off the area.

Around 40 sympathisers drove a cortege on Sunday to the centre's entrance on Sunday, after days of complaints about detention conditions and the physical and psychological treatment of those held.

Some of those held began a hunger strike on Wednesday, with the case of an 18-year-old Egyptian held in solitary confinement, who protesters said was beaten by four guards, at the centre of their ire.

One of the protest organisers, Axel Wauters, said "politicians are quick to condemn violence from (deposed Egyptian president Hosni) Mubarak's regime, but close their eyes at violence deployed by Belgian guards on an Egyptian youth."

© 2011 AFP

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