Landloperskolonies in Flanders and the Netherlands is not yet recognised as a world Heritage site

The Colonies of Benevolence, seven former landloperskolonies in Flanders and the Netherlands, have not yet received recognition as a Unesco world Heritage site. That has the world heritage committee decided at an international convention in Manama (Bahrain).


Among the seven are two Belgian sites, the colonies of Merksplas and Wortel in de Antwerpse Kempen. The members of the world heritage committee decided to have the opinion of ICOMOS, the independent organization that the nominations be studying, not to follow, and the seven Colonies of Benevolence what homework to give to next year to come back, says Flemish minister-president Geert Bourgeois, responsible for Immovable Heritage.

But the recognition of the colonies is a step closer, he says. ‘Enrollment as a UNESCO world heritage site was the icing on the cake and a reward for the hard work of the various parties that their shoulders have taken,” says Bourgeois. “But, there is great hope that the project are all special erfgoedstatus still as a world heritage site recognized see. In the meantime, we will continue to care for and protection of such exceptional cultural-historic landscapes support.’

‘It is a pity that we our recognition today, not because we have the past few weeks and months a lot accomplished,” says Tinne Rombouts (CD&V), the mayor of Hoogstraten, where the colony of Root is located.

It will be in order

“But we got the feeling that Unesco all seven of the colonies is important and it will come. That recognition will come there next year. We have some technical things to adjust, some factual inaccuracies straighten. This process was started in 2012 and had been incredibly interesting and enriching. The connection you now have between the different sites, there will always remain. The recognition by Unesco is the icing on the cake.’

Also her colleague in Merksplas, mayor Frank Wilrycx (Open Vld), is satisfied. ‘We now have a better starting position than when we came to Bahrain left,” he says. “There was a negative opinion that now was transformed into a ‘maybe’. The Unesco recognition is a label for our site, which we tourist recreational want to unlock a hotel and bar / restaurant. As a Unesco-label helps in the promotion as a tourist site.’

Provincial deputy and co-chairman of the Kempens Landscape Inga Verhaert (sp.(a) remain hopeful. “It is unfortunate that Carrot – and Merksplas-Colony not a place on the world Heritage list. Exactly 200 years after the foundation of the first Colony and 25 years after the abolition of the law on vagrancy in Belgium, this was a very symbolic moment. But together with the Dutch colonies, we have it now to the final of the world Heritage kicked in. And the next match is next year. We now look at how we’re the best for gearing up.’

Care of vagrants

The Colonies of Benevolence are seven landbouwkoloniën in Belgium and the Netherlands from the 19th century where the poor, vagrants and orphans in a tight straitjacket lived and worked. After the Belgian independence were Merksplas and Root are used to vagrants to catch. Until 1993, lived, lived and worked there are still vagrants. Until 1993, was vagrancy is punishable.

ICOMOS advised previously the case file to review, and only one or two of the colonies to acknowledge. They would not all “the ideas of large-scale poverty reduction with the help of landbouwkoloniën’ represent.

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