Syrian Doms in Brussels

6 July 2020

In the spring of 2015, social and prevention workers in the municipality of Anderlecht noticed the presence of families in the Cureghem Rosée Park who were very much reminiscent of Roma groups already present in the area. However, they spoke a language unfamiliar to them. This turned out to be Domari, the language of the Doms from the Middle East. Thus, it gradually emerged that among the thousands of Syrian war refugees who settled in Brussels, there were a large number of Doms, the ‘Roma’ from the Middle East.

Over time, it became clear that this group was excluded from Brussels society in several domains and that there was still a long way to go towards sustainable inclusion. Some organisations and municipalities where many Doms lived started to give them specific attention and to work with them.

At the beginning of 2019, Eva Khalil, of Syrian origin herself, started working as a mediator at Foyer with the Syrian Doms. In collaboration with the Roma service, she recorded her experiences and analysis with regard to this group in a publication, available in Dutch and soon in French.

This book tries to give a concise picture of the Syrian Doms and their position between past and present. Where are their origins? What was their situation in Syria? What do we know about their mother tongue? What migration routes did they use to reach Western Europe?

Once in Belgium, they are confronted with the need to send their children to school, look for work, etc. How are they coping with this new reality? What is difficult and what are the challenges? What hopeful initiatives already exist in Brussels?

A better knowledge of these people means for many professionals and volunteers a first step towards a more effective service.