Punishing all tourists wanting to travel to the coast for one day because of the actions of a few youths last weekend is "not desirable," according to Belgian Minister for Security and Home Affairs Pieter De Crem.
Rather than banning day-trippers from the most popular resorts on the coast, as Knokke-Heist mayor Leopold Lippens decided to do, De Crem is in favour of imposing administrative or judicial bans to enter certain places on those identified as troublemakers.
"I will take steps to ensure that a ban can be imposed for the entire coast," he told the parliament on Tuesday, "and if necessary also for recreational areas."
De Crem hopes to be able to "quickly" put his idea into practice through a "legislative initiative," he told Belga.
A ban should be imposed on those convicted, as well as on those who have received an administrative fine for failing to comply with the rules. The ban would apply temporarily during specific periods, such as heatwave weekends or the tourist season.
The measure could be checked in the commune where the banned people live, for example by means of a permit to report to the authorities.
"We cannot punish the many people who have the right to travel to the coast for the actions of twenty or more troublemakers," he said, adding that this is one of the reasons why he opposed the possible closure of the stations during the weekend.
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Additionally, he stressed that "at no time" was there a report of a lack of police personnel in Blankenberge last weekend, when the fight started, listing the federal reinforcements that were available and have also intervened Saturday to evacuate the beach and arrest suspects.
These various reinforcements intervened on Saturday, he pointed out, rejecting the idea suggested by some MPs that the mayors of the coastal municipalities would have been "abandoned" by the federal government.
"In the context of the Covid-19 pandemic, the local authorities asked for more autonomy, which they received at the end of the National Security Council of 23 July," De Crem stressed.
The idea was that the local authorities could propose specific measures, adapted to the local reality, to effectively fight against the spread of the virus. On the coast, popular resorts have made use of it to create a beach reservation system.
However, in the local management of Saturday's events, there were several missed opportunities, according to De Crem.
In Blankenberge specifically, the beach "is very narrow, there is little room outside private concessions at high tide. It is the task of the local authorities to manage this space, to make sure that there are not too many people depending on the tides."
"According to my information, the first signals of problems with youths arrived at around 2:00 PM, and there was no intervention until several hours later," he added.
The Brussels Times