Belgium signs deal to rent jail space in the Netherlands
Strapped for space in its prisons, Belgium on Saturday signed an accord to rent 500 cells at Tilburg prison in its neighbour the Netherlands, the Dutch justice ministry said.The Hague - Strapped for space in its prisons, Belgium on Saturday signed an accord to rent 500 cells at Tilburg prison in its neighbour the Netherlands, the Dutch justice ministry said.
"The Netherlands is putting the prison and its personnel at (Belgium's) disposal for placing at least 500 detainees over a period of three years," the ministry said in a statement.
The agreement, "unique in Europe ... will temporarily make up for the lack of cells in Belgium," which will pay EUR 30 million (USD 44.4 million) a year for locking up its prisoners in the Netherlands, the statement said.
Belgium's prisons currently hold 10,400 people, or around 2,000 more than their capacity. No prisoners who are "an escape risk or a risk to society" will be sent to Tilburg, about 10 kilometres (six miles) from Belgium, it said.
The accord, signed by Belgium's Justice Minister Stefaan De Clerck and Dutch Justice Secretary of State Nebahat Albayrak, still needs to be approved by both countries' parliaments.
"The two ministries will try to make sure that Tilburg prison can be used by Belgium as quickly as possible," the statement said, adding that the accord was for an initial three years and could be extended by another year.
The Netherlands has around 2,000 empty prison cells thanks to a drop in the crime rate after a spike in the 1990s.
Recent spectacular escapes from Belgian prisons had put the spotlight on the country's overburdened jail system.