Five years after Brussels attacks, victims decry lack of support

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Brussels attacks

dpa/GNA – Ahead of the five-year anniversary of the terrorist attacks in Brussels that claimed the lives of dozens of people and injured hundreds, survivors decry a lack of support by Belgian authorities.

Manuel Martinez was working at Brussels airport in Zaventem when a bomb went off close to him. It was part of coordinated suicide bombings claimed by the Islamic State that targeted three different locations on March 22, 2016: two at the airport and one at Maelbeek metro station in central Brussels. Thirty-two people were killed.

With 34 operations over the past five years, and one more coming up, Manuel is frustrated over a lack of support by Belgian authorities.

“Not the justice ministry, not the health ministry – nobody does anything for me, for my situation,” the 44-year-old told dpa.

Aside from a severe mental trauma he carries with him, he battles with the physical – and costly – consequences of the attacks. The 120,000 euros he received were not enough, he said. For example, he needs to renovate his bathroom to adapt it to his needs – but his insurance refuses to pay.

“The Belgian government does nothing for us,” he said. “The Belgian government has forgotten us.”

Sabine Borgignons, 46, tells a similar story of pain. She was sitting in the metro station Maelbeek when a bomb exploded.

In contrast to Manuel, however, Sabine feels she received adequate compensation. But like Manuel, she feels left alone and misunderstood by people who have not undergone the same experience.
“It’s a feeling of great loneliness,” she said.

Justice Minister Vincent Van Quickenborne denies allegations of shortcomings, telling parliament on Friday that the government offered immediate help to the victims.

But for lawyer Valeria Gerard, who works for victims rights organization Life4Brussels, part of the victims’ suffering stemmed from Belgian bureaucracy. She explained that the insurance system was so complicated it was nearly impossible for victims to receive adequate compensation – and the government was doing little to change that.

“Until today, nothing has been done to limit the damages for the victims,” she said. “Five years on, the situation hasn’t changed.”

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