A Belgian family wanted to offer their house to a refugee family displaced by the war in Ukraine, but instead has lived through a nightmare.
“We had offered a place for a woman with two children. We were assigned a family in June 2022. When we went to pick them up at the OCMW in Ninove, it turned out to be a pregnant woman, her husband and three children. That was the first problem, but not insurmountable,” De Strijcker said, using the acronym for Belgium’s Public Center for Social Welfare.
“We quickly noticed that this was no ordinary Ukrainian family. Two weeks later, the CPAS told us that they were Roma gypsies,” De Strijcker said.
The result was that the refugee family did not know how to use modern conveniences, such as a washing machine, dryer, or oven. The mother of the children was washing clothes in the tub.
Within a few weeks, the house — in which the couple was no longer living — had been transformed.
“Mildew appeared all over the windows, the walls were covered with inscriptions, the wood was torn from the frame of the bed, the doors and cabinets were damaged,” De Strijcker said.
“But that’s not all: all the chairs in the kitchen were broken, the molding was torn off the stairs, there were holes in the floor, our children’s toys were broken, even their piggy bank was opened,” he continued.
But it got worse, he said, as Belgium’s Public Center for Social Assistance, known by the acronym of CPAS, did nothing to help as their problems spiraled.
“We should have drawn up a rental contract, but the CPAS never discussed it with us. They only said that we would receive compensation. We contacted the CPAS several times, but they were reluctant to see us. They simply told us: ‘Either we take the refugees, or they stay with you and you stop asking us,'” he said, adding that they gave the family a second chance.
By September of last year, they had reached their end, according to Ninofmedia.
“There was too much damage, the man refused three times to accept job offers for various reasons,” De Strijcker said, noting that the man preferred off-the-books black market work.
“We found out another family was staying here on the sly, we don’t know how long,” he said, adding that the alleged sister had simply arrived from Ukraine and not through proper channels.
De Strijcker told 7sur7 that at one point, the house had 11 people living in it.
“This could have caused big problems in the event of a fire, for example, as we had been persuaded to let them check in at our home address,” he said.
The refugees “also constantly asked us for money,” he said. “Once it was supposedly for their youngest daughter’s birthday present, but it turned out to be for a car, although we knew the man didn’t have a driver’s license.”
Eventually, the refugees left at the end of November. “It was not until the end of December that they came to collect all their belongings. It was a real mess,” he said.
The damage totaled 36,000 euros, which amounts to more than $39,000.
“The CPAS then told us that we would not receive any compensation. We were advised to sue the family in question through the Peace Court. We are going to do it, but the family lives on an integration income. How are they going to pay for this? We understand that 36,000 euros is a lot of money, but the CPAS could have covered part of the damage, which has been proven,” he said.
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