- Disturbances in Leuven that led to popular government there saw hundreds of merchants and thousands of skilled craftsmen move to Brussels from 1360 to 1382 in an early, large-scale immigration to the city. Immigrants from Brabant, neighboring territories, and distant countries, notably Spain and Italy, arrived during the reign of Emperor Charles V in contributing to developing industry and trade, especially in luxury goods, engendered by the city's status as the residence of the most powerful monarch in Europe. The area around the church of Sainte-Catherine became the locale of Irish residents, members of regiments who arrived during the late 16th century to serve in the Spanish army and many of whom stayed. Religious orders flocked to Brussels during the years of the Catholic Counter-Reformation in the 17th century.Following Belgian independence in 1830, Brussels attracted large numbers of immigrants from the provinces drawn to the city by its status as the national capital. That fact would serve to draw Belgians to Brussels throughout the 19th and 20th centuries.In August and September 1870 during the Franco-Prussian War, an estimated 35,000 French refugees arrived at the Gare du Midi. Many would remain to settle.Immigrants began to arrive from the Congo in the early 1960s. Spaniards, Italians, Portuguese, Moroccans, and Turks arrived during the economic growth years from the 1960s through the early 1970s. It was this immigration that largely swelled the ranks of foreign-born residents in today's city. They have continued to arrive in smaller numbers in succeeding decades. Immigrants have tended to concentrate in old working-class quarters in the central city and in inner suburbs such as Saint-Josse-ten-Noode, Saint-Gilles, and Schaer-beek. Africans have created a unique district—Matonge — in Ixelles. Immigrants totaled approximately 170,000 in 1995, and they comprise about 18 percent of the population of the Brussels Capital Region. Arrivals from Morocco, Italy, France, Spain, and Turkey comprise the five largest resident groups.See also Expatriates.
Historical Dictionary of Brussels. Paul F. State.