Antwerp starts door-to-door searches
3 November 2005
BRUSSELS — The controversial door-to-door searches in disadvantaged Antwerp city districts started on Thursday, the office of Safety Alderman Dirk Grootjans said.
It had previously been announced that the inspections would start in the first half of November as part of the alderman’s city safety plan.
Teams of four public servants from the housing, population register, social security office and safety will examine the living circumstance of residents in Antwerp North.
The data gathered will be sent via email to other government authorities with a request to take action where necessary.
Police office will not accompany the teams and the residents are allowed to refuse them entry, newspaper ‘De Tijd’ reported.
The city had been reluctant to reveal the exact starting date: “We need to give this plan a chance. This is not a hunt, the police will not be involved,” Grootjans said.
However, the start of the inspections eventually leaked out as Flemish newspaper ‘De Morgen’ ran a front page story heralding the start of the searches on Thursday based on a tip off.
With intense media attention focused on the inspections — interest extending to Dutch media — the office of Grootjans eventually confirmed the start of the inspections on Thursday, but remained otherwise tightlipped.
Opponents claim the searches are a veiled hunt for illegal immigrants and are urging city residents with posters to refuse entry to the inspection teams.
The protest group Basta has also placed on the posters telephone numbers where residents can seek legal advice.
Earlier green Groen! city councillor Johan Bijttebier had lodged a complaint with the privacy commission, which promptly condemned Antwerp’s plans.
In turn, the city council slightly amended its proposals based on recommendations from the commission, but the basis of the door-to-door searches was left in tact.
The privacy commission eventually gave the green light for the searches a few weeks ago and the only thing left to occur was the start of the searches itself.
“The first inspections will be evaluated. We will share our findings with the press next week,” the secretary of Alderman Grootjans said.
[Copyright Expatica News 2005]
Subject: Belgian news