Expatica news

Port authorities urge asylum crackdown

21 September 2004

BRUSSELS – The Belgian government has been urged to crack down on aslyum seekers heading to the UK from the port of Zeebrugge.

Zeebrugge’s port and town authorities called a meeting on Tuesday with Interior Minister Patrick Dewael to discuss measures to tackle the rapid rise in asylum seekers travelling through Belgium.

Senior officials from Bruges, local and port police, and the government office dealing with foreigners were all present at the meeting.

In July 2004, the police intercepted 94 illegal immigrants heading for Britain.

This rose to 332 in August and 335 in September.

The federal and local police have already launched an initiaive to tackle the problem but have complained they are forced to release people almost immediately.

They have asked Dewael to create secure reception centres as part of a more long term solution.

According to Erna Vienne, the President of the Port Association of Zeebrugge Interests (APZI), the port authorities have already invested EUR 5 million in the fight against illegal immigration.

“We know that it is a humanitarian problem, but it is irresponsible that the private sector must foot the bill,” he said.

“The most frustrating thing is that this investment is useless if illegals are not followed and are immediately released.”

The town mayor, Patrick Moenaert, said the rising problem had been fuelled by a decision last October to close two squats.

People traffickers have also changed tactics, choosing now to hide their victims inland rather than in port towns.

They then take advantage of late night trains or trams to transport illegal immigrants to the coast.

The nationality of the would-be immigrants has also seen a change since last year.

In 2003, Afghans were the main nationality to head across the Channel, but the majority are now Indians, at 36.6 percent.

Moldovans take second place with 15.6 percent, followed by Afghans at 13.5 percent, Iranians at 9.2 percent while 7.2 percent of illegal immigrants come from Vietnam.

[Copyright Expatica 2004]

Subject: Belgian news