About 20 minutes from Brussels, take exit 8 on the E411, and a tiny paved road will lead you to the Logis de Louvranges, a veritable haven of peace. A pretty brick building, this former convent was completely renovated 5 years ago into a reception center for women and children going through the asylum process. The following is an interview with one of its residents.
Nathalie Braun, the project manager, welcomes us to the Logis with a kind smile. She knows each of the residents living in the 20 or so individual units personally. Today, she is introducing us to Solange. Originally from Congo, this mother of two arrived at the Logis last February after stays at the open center in Holsbeek and in Caritas housing in Ostende.
With her youngest son asleep on her lap, Solange tells us her story with unexpected calm. “In Congo, I had many problems. That is why I came here. I had a premature marriage: at the age of 10, I was forced to marry a man who abused me.” After trying to escape, she was threatened by his family.
An orphan, she had no one to turn to, and ended up fleeing to Belgium. “Once I got here, I went to the Immigration Office. That’s how I was sent to the open center in Holsbeek. They put me in contact with Caritas International,” says Solange.
Despite having had her first asylum request denied, Solange is relatively confident in the rest of her life here in Belgium. “I don’t want to go back to Congo. There is nothing for me there: no family, no work. My lawyer is working on the appeal, and I’m impatient for approval. We need security and peace of mind.”
Thinking of her future, Solange says she would like to return to Ostende. She had loved the city with its liveliness and shops, and she sees many opportunities for herself there as a cleaning woman.
Solange is very happy here at Logis. “The house is clean, the kids can go to school, there is medical care if they get sick.” But she is also looking forward to moving on with her asylum process, a job, and a life that is finally her own.