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"Refugees Welcome" solidarity march in Brussels

BRUSSELS, Belgium -- Thousands of people marched in solidarity with refugees on Sunday in a national demonstration in the Belgian capital Brussels.

Organised by the Civic Platform in Support for Brussels Refugees, which manages the city's largest asylum seekers camp outside the immigration office, the 'Refugees Welcome' march attracted crowds waving banners and playing drums to show their support for those escaping war.

Spokesperson, Elodie Francart, said the demonstration aimed at showing popular support for the migrants to politicians.

"The goal of this march is really to show great solidarity so that politicians understand that a slice of the population is in favour of immigration, in favour of the arrival of these new migrants and in favour of taking care of these refugees in a dignified way," Francart said.

Holding signs and banners reading "Equality for all, respect for all", "No one is illegal" and "We are not dangerous, we are in danger," protesters marched across the city from the Northern station to the Cinquantenaire site, a park located few metres away from the European institutions.

One of these demonstrators travelled with her child from the French-speaking southern Belgian town of Sart-Dames-Avelines to participate in the demonstration.

Julie Coumont, a union representative, said people should welcome refugees like they hope they would be welcomed, should they one day leave for another country.

"I have parents and grandparents who came from I don't know where. I have children who might go somewhere else one day out of choice, desire or necessity and I hope that, in this case, they will be welcomed properly as we want to welcome the refugees here," Coumont said.

Earlier in the week, EU leaders pledged at least 1 billion euros for Syrian refugees in the Middle East and closer cooperation to stem migrant flows into Europe at a summit described as less tense than feared after weeks of feuding.

Held at short notice after governments fell out badly over a scheme to share out responsibilities for asylum-seekers around the EU, the summit carried political rather than legal weight.

The summit set a November deadline for Greece and Italy to have EU-staffed "hotspots" in place to register and fingerprint new arrivals and start a process of relocating Syrians and others likely to win refugee status to other EU states and deporting those regarded as unwanted economic migrants.

A record 433,000 refugees and migrants have crossed the Mediterranean to Europe in 2015, more than double the total for all of 2014, according to the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

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