‘Abandoned’ Brussels attacks victims step up calls for help
Survivors and relatives of victims of the 2016 Brussels attacks rallied on Wednesday to urge Belgian authorities to improve a compensation process that they say has "abandoned" them nearly two years on.
A group of people affected by the suicide attacks on Brussels Airport in Zaventem and Maalbeek metro station that killed 32 people and injured 230 others held a press conference to call for help.
“Everywhere we turn there are walls, there are people who don’t understand us. Where is the help?” said Myriam Gueuning, who was injured in the double suicide attack at Zaventem Airport on March 22, 2016.
“Nowhere! Not from the insurance companies, certainly not from the government. We have had enough,” said Gueuning, who is in her 60s.
The victims were represented by the V-Europe association, which says it is campaigning on behalf of 200 people who were either wounded in the blast or who lost relatives.
The attacks were carried out by a Franco-Belgian group of young men that was also linked to the November 2015 Paris attacks. The Islamic State group claimed responsiblity for the Brussels bombings.
Charlotte Dixon-Sutcliffe, whose partner David Dixon was killed in the metro bombing, said in a letter read to the press conference that despite having lived in Belgium for four years she and their autistic son had received “nothing”.
“We have been cast aside and abandoned by the Belgian authorities, and I feel that the health and wellbeing of my son, myself and my fellow victims are not at all valued,” she said.
“It is utterly shameful that we have been forced to fight for our rights.”
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 V-Europe said the government was still not doing enough.
“Things have to move on because the victims are in almost the same position as they were two years ago,” Philippe Vansteenkiste, whose sister was killed at Zaventem and who is one of V-Europe’s co-founders, told AFP.
The Belgian government vowed Thursday to step up its efforts to help victims.
“The authorities are fully aware of the importance of these measures. We will do everything to ensure they take effect as quickly as possible,” said a joint statement by Justice Minister Koen Geens, Health Minister Maggie De Block and Defence Minister Steven Vandeput.