Homeless children used as foot soldiers in drug trade around Brussels Midi station

The drug trade around Brussel Midi station is becoming increasingly violent and also involves homeless children, Het Laatste Nieuws reports on Friday, based on interviews with aid workers, the federal police and Child Focus, the Belgian foundation for missing and sexually exploited children.

The children involved are mostly from Morocco, Algeria or Afghanistan, who reach Belgium alone and are exploited here. Criminal organisations use these unaccompanied minors as foot soldiers in the drug trade, according to a report by the federal police to Europol, the European police office.

They are mainly used to keep watch but are sometimes obliged to deal drugs. They are pressured with violence. An anonymous source who knows the issue well told the newspaper that "we see torture almost every week". This can range from severe beatings to rapes that are filmed.

Many of the children live in squats near the station, but according to Tijana Popovic, policy officer at Child Focus, their situation is often a blind spot. "Last year, we recorded 332 'worrying' disappearances of unaccompanied minors, 30 of whom were under 13 years old,” she told Het Laatste Nieuws. “But those are only the numbers reported by reception centres; the actual number is many times higher.”


Police officer at Brussels Midi station © BELGA PHOTO NICOLAS MAETERLINCK

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