Belgian MPs demand better help for terror victims

The remembrance wall is pictured before a minute of silence at 09:11 in the Maelbeek - Maalbeek subway station as tribute to the victims of last year terrorist attacks in Brussels, on March 22, 2017

Belgian lawmakers on Tuesday demanded that authorities overhaul the way victims of terrorism are treated, after widespread criticism of insensitivity in the wake of last year's attacks in Brussels.

The findings came in a special Belgian parliamentary committee report on the attacks on the Maalbeek metro station and Zaventem airport, for which the Islamic State group claimed responsibility.

The blasts killed 32 people and wounded about 230 others -- with many of the seriously wounded needing long-term care and rehabilitation -- and shattered the lives of hundreds of their loved ones.

But the report found that victims have faced frustrating battles to get support from a labyrinthine Belgian bureaucracy that has already been heavily criticised for intelligence and security failings.

Those affected have faced myriad problems including "poor insurance, lack of a special victim status, the maze of Belgian bureaucracy," Belgian MP Patrick Dewael said at a news conference.

Dewael heads the committee, which has worked for months to review the shortcomings that helped allow the events in Brussels as well as the deadly 2015 attacks in Paris, which were planned in the Belgian capital by the same terror cell.

Recommendations in the report include a "one-stop shop" for victims instead of the current requirement that victims register with several different authorities.

Another proposal calls for victims to immediately receive compensation by the government instead of waiting long months to receive payouts from insurance companies.

"This feels like a big step even if a lot of the details remain to be worked out," said Philippe Vansteenkiste, brother of an airport employee who was killed in the attack.

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