Belgian city Ostend to transform protected building into 'mega-brothel'

Eleanor Rose
The beachfront in Ostend, Belgium, the town the 'mega-brothel' will serve: Stephan Mignon/Flickr

Belgium is to transform an abandoned warehouse with protected building status into a "mega-brothel".

The large industrial building "Hangaar 1" in the city of Ostend will become the "Hangar D'Amour" to accommodate a small number of the estimated 26,000 sex workers in Belgium, where prostitutes can operate legally and are allowed to rent premises.

Mayor Johan Vande Lanotte said creating the new home for sex work in his town would cut down on pimping, since the women will lease rooms directly from the landlord.

He also promised improved security for the women as well as a health centre and close cooperation with local police.

Non-profit group Oostendse Oosteroever had campaigned for the old industrial complex to be converted into a museum, aquarium or other space for the public good.

But after their efforts failed, the group called the mega-brothel plan "madness" and said it will "destroy" the port.

The development - which will also feature a bar and brewery - is part of a project by the municipality of the seaside town to clear its red-light district, known as Hazegras, according to local media.

Belgium has long taken a relaxed legal approach to prostitution, and brought in reforms in 1995 and 2005 to crack down on human trafficking and improve safety for sex workers.

However, the country is still listed by the UN's Office on Drugs and Crime as a destination country for trafficking, with victims including nationals from Morocco, Romania, Nigeria, China, Tunisia and Bulgaria.