Of the eight others, one man has absconded to the United Kingdom, where he has now gone underground. He was ordered to be arrested, but a European arrest warrant has yet to be issued. The others were given suspended sentences of between 12 and 42 months.
The four accused acquitted are involved with the Platform for Refugee Support, one organisation that came to the fore in the summer of 2016 when refugees camped out en masse in the Maximilian Park in Brussels due to the lack of official accommodation for asylum-seekers. Members of the platform took refugees who had not yet been processed into their own homes. Of the four, only Walid C. served time – eight months – on remand.
“If I had it all to do over, I would do exactly the same thing,” said Myriam Berghe after the verdict. “This is my conception of hospitality. I trust these young people, and they trust me. We trust each other. We talk a lot about the hosts, but we have to think about them: it can’t be easy to move in with people you don’t know to take a shower or wash your clothes. Life for them is awful.”