Ostend mayor Bart Tommelein has taken measures to stop young visitors to the municipal swimming pool (photo) from causing trouble to other visitors. The trouble-makers, most of whom are not local, have been banned for three months – until after the end of the summer holidays.
“If they do show up, they can find themselves locked up for up to 12 hours,” Tommelein told De Standaard.
The group of ten or so young men, he said, had caused upset to other visitors on Monday and Wednesday this week. “It varies from intimidating other swimming pool users to pushing other swimmers’ heads underwater and even using drugs in the changing rooms,” Tommelein said.
The trouble-makers were taken into administrative custody and identified. “It seems to be young men from Brussels and from northern France, and some of them were here on Wednesday as well as Monday.”
The ban is effectively a curfew, a measure normally used by municipal councils to deal with problems in the local night-life. The moment any of the identified youths shows up at the swimming pool, they are liable to be locked up for a maximum of 12 hours, regardless of whether or not they commit new offences.
Last week the authorities in the town of Koewacht across the border in Zeeland complained of visitors being terrorised by youths allegedly from Flanders. The council there introduced a season ticket for pool users to discourage the incomers.
And the provincial park in Hofstade near Mechelen saw a repeat of its regular summer invasion by gangs of youths from Brussels, with about 40 coming together for a fight. Hofstade is one of a few open-air swimming pools in the wider Brussels area that has had to deal with an influx of young visitors from Brussels, where no such facility exists. Measures taken in the past include introducing a fee for entry, demanding an ID card on entering, closer police cooperation and even, in one case, a ban on long-legged swimming shorts – a measure described as racist as the shorts are assumed to be preferred by Muslim youths.