Belgium is generally considered a safe country to live in. Crime rates are relatively low, and the police are professional and well-trained to deal with emergency situations swiftly. Nevertheless, the country does suffer a very real threat of terrorism and has experienced deadly attacks in recent times.
Crime in Belgium
Belgium has a relatively low crime rate. Petty crimes, like pickpocketing and mugging, do occur in the cities but more serious crimes are rare. Expats will generally feel very safe within their apartments or homes, although Brussels has witnessed increased levels of home break-ins in recent years.
Major railway stations are hotspots for muggings and pickpocketing in Brussels and Antwerp. There have also been reports of thieves operating on trains, including on international routes such as those between Brussels and Paris and Brussels and Amsterdam.
Terrorism in Belgium
Brussels is home to a number of international organisations, including the EU and NATO headquarters. The city hosts many multi-lateral conferences and meetings. This, accompanied by Belgium's active involvement in the politics of the Middle East, have made the country a target for international terrorists.
The deadliest attack occurred in Brussels in March 2016 when coordinated suicide bombings at Brussels Airport and Maalbeek metro station left 32 people dead and more than 300 people injured. The attack was carried out by a group affiliated with ISIS which was also responsible for the November 2015 Paris attacks.
A number of ISIS sympathisers and active jihadists have been known to originate from Belgium. There have been a number of people arrested in Belgium believed to have links with anarchist and terrorist groups in recent years. Authorities are actively working to prevent further attacks.
Expats in Belgium should exercise caution at all times and keep abreast of the latest developments.
Protests in Belgium
Political, labour and social groups are active and hold frequent protests in Belgium, particularly in Brussels. Although most of these are peaceful, they do have a tendency to disrupt traffic in the affected areas. Tensions among various immigrant communities have on occasion resulted in protests and violent scuffles. Right-wing youths have also attacked immigrants on occasion, primarily in the Antwerp province. Expats are advised to keep clear of any protests.
Road safety in Belgium
Belgian roads are generally in good condition and well maintained. However, traffic accident rates in Belgium are high. Local drivers can behave erratically and drive too fast. Expats should adhere to the "priority to the right" rule, which is strictly enforced.
There have been a few incidents of robberies and express kidnappings on or around the motorways connecting Brussels to other major European cities, including Amsterdam and The Hague. Perpetrators flag vehicles down and then use threats of violence against their victims, taking them to the nearest ATM and forcing them to withdraw cash. To avoid falling prey to this, try to avoid picking up anyone you don't know.