The police zone Westkust (Koksijde, De Panne and Nieuwpoort) has deployed a system of infrared cameras to combat human trafficking, the provincial governor Carl De Caluwé said during a press conference on Monday.
The cameras should enable the police to detect the movements of smugglers in the dunes and on the beach, and to intercept boats carrying migrants across the Channel to the United Kingdom more quickly, especially at night.
The system consists of a standard camera and a thermal camera with a super-resolution zoom, and will be installed in the coastal town De Panne, on the border with France.
The police believe the system is absolutely essential. From northern France, 97 attempted or actual crossings took place in May 2020, which is 75 more than in May 2019.
“We see that Belgian smugglers are increasingly expanding their scope of activity on Belgian territory,” said Nicholas Paelinck of the Westkust police zone.
In January this year, 14 people found themselves in a critical situation after their boat capsized while trying to reach the UK from the beach at De Panne. They were all rescued, but six of them were found hypothermic.
Since then, there have been six more attempts to cross the Channel in small boats in 2020.
The thermal cameras, which are capable of covering an area of five kilometres and can produce very precise images, are monitored live during the night. Drones equipped with an infrared camera will be sent to the scene in the event of suspicious detection.
The cost of the pilot project amounts to €30,000, with the police investing €20,000 -and the governor of West Flanders €10,000. The system could be extended after the trial period.
The Brussels Times