Police raid at creative safe haven Globe Aroma

Friday 9 Feb. at 4pm some 20 policemen of the Federal Police invaded the workspaces of Globe Aroma in the Moutstraat in Brussels. Among others, Niko Hafkenscheid was present working on preparations for a music-theatre project, part of the structural and multi-year partnership between Globe Aroma and the Kaaitheater.

It is not clear yet what the cause and aim of this raid was. Some say it had to do with the “Kanalplan" of the minister of interior affairs Jan Jambon who wants to screen non-profit organisations deemed somehow suspect. The presence of the federal finance department seems to point in that direction. But the federal police didn’t officially or formally confirm this. The spokesman of the Federal said it was a ‘multidiciplinary’ control/screening. Whatever that might mean.

The invasion was, according to witnesses, at times brutal and aggressive. Seven people who couldn’t produce papers were arrested and taken to the police station in the Koningstraat. Within moments a group of sympathisers gathered in front of the police station, but no reaction from the police was forthcoming.

Above all this is a tragedy for the seven who are in custody. But behind this human drama hides a policy-based anomaly that can have far reaching consequenses for the cultural and socio-cultural sector. Globe Aroma, together with a number of other socio-cultural organisations, is supported by the Flemish community and the city of Brussels precisely because of their work with newcomers, refugees and asylum seekers, with or without papers.

In today's super-diverse metropolis with such huge social, economic and cultural challenges, they are the most vulnerable group. The fact that cultural and socio-cultural organisations are also concerned about them is necessary and desirable. A number of policy makers in this country recognise the importance of this and support the organisations in their concern. For over 10 years, Globe Aroma has been offering refugees a 'creative safe haven' in the center of Brussels. It’s about their talents, not their papers. But the Federal Police and the FPS Finance thought it necessary today to carry out a highly intimidating action rendering a ’safe haven' unsafe.

What refugee or asylum seeker will continue to visit cultural or socio-cultural organisations in peace of mind if the Federal Police uses them as a 'trap'? What cultural worker dares to get involved or open the door in these circumstances?

Two years ago, Cultural Minister Sven Gatz declared that culture could act as a ‘balm’ for the refugees and called on the cultural sector to be more engaged. That this balm would eventually provide the scent for police dogs, he did not expect.

Guy Gypens - general director, Kaaitheater