A gurdwara in Belgium would be shut for a month for allegedly harbouring 11 illegal Indian immigrants, including a minor, the authorities said, while ordering their deportation.
During a recent police raid, 11 illegal immigrants were found in the cellars of an empty building in the town of Vilvoorde.
“This is the same hiding place used by human traffickers that were convicted at the end of last year. The Sikh temple provided food and accommodation for the illegal immigrants during the daytime,” said Hans Bonte, the mayor of Vilvoorde.
On October 13, Bonte had a meeting with representatives of the temple. He asked them to formulate constructive proposals aimed at tackling the problem of the illegal immigrants.
“They told me they were aware of the situation, but couldn’t do anything about it. Meanwhile, I have not heard anything,” Bonte was quoted as saying by the Flanders news and radio VRT website.
The mayor also accused the judicial authorities of failing to address the problem. The illegal immigrants detained on October 11 were released the same day and ordered to leave the country.
Decision unfortunate: SGPC
Meanwhile, the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) has described as unfortunate the Belgian government’s decision to shut down a gurdwara in Brussels, capital of the western European country, on the grounds that “unauthorised” people had taken shelter there.
In a statement issued here on Wednesday, SGPC president Avtar Singh Makkar said that instead of closing down the shrine, the Belgian government should tighten a vigil along the country’s border to keep illegal immigrants out. “Gurdwaras are places of worship, the doors of which are always open to anyone, irrespective of the visitor’s religion. It should never be shut down,” stated Makkar.
On the claims of the Belgian government that the Brussels gurdwara also served langar to illegal immigrants, Makkar said langar was a tradition since the time of the Sikh Gurus and anyone coming to the gurdwara could partake of it. Referring to the blame put on the shrine management, the SGPC president said it was not the job of the gurdwara managers to check the travel documents or immigration papers of the visitors.
“This is the duty of the government,” he stated.
He appealed to the Belgian government to reopen the Brussels shrine, and thereafter work out steps with the management to prevent the entry of “unauthorised” people.