The police in Brussels will intervene in the next few days to stem the influx of migrants in the Gare du Nord neighbourhood, Interior Minister Jan Jambon told a parliamentary commission on Wednesday. Some 600 migrants were present during a food distribution on Tuesday evening – according to an on-site headcount- up from 500 on the 1st of January, 250 in mid-December and 100 in mid-November. “If we want to avoid a new Calais jungle, continuous surveillance has to be carried out,” the minister said as he responded to queries from parliamentarians Benoît Hellings (Ecologists), Wouter De Vriendt (Greens) et Monica De Coninck (sp.a – Socialist Party Differently).
A working group meets regularly to evaluate the situation. When an increase in the number of migrants is noted, the police intervene to prevent people from squatting in the Gare du Nord area, particularly in Maximilian Park. “Further actions are scheduled in the coming days,” the minister added.
These actions had been bearing fruit, according to a graph presented by Jambon, which showed that there had been a reduction in the number of arrests of Sudanese since the month of September.
However, parliamentarians were sceptical. “It’s not the policy you are following that has resulted in fewer arrests of migrants, but the thousands of citizens who have been mobilizing for months to provide a roof for them,” Hellings countered.
The minister was hauled over the coals by parliamentarians after saying that since the 20th of December and the announcement of a suspension of repatriations to Sudan, the number of Sudanese in the Gare du Nord area had increased “exponentially”. He based this on an increase in the percentage of Sudanese among migrants intercepted countrywide, which went from 3.9 to 5.2 in one month.
Jambon admitted that he was unable to prove “scientifically” that there was a link between the December 20 decision and the increase in the number of Sudanese intercepted, but said: “I’m not going to wait until the situation is irreversible to react.”
The repatriations to Sudan have been suspended pending the results of an investigation by the Office of the Commissioner General for Refugees and Stateless Persons, CGRA, launched following testimonies attesting to the ill-treatment of migrants when they went back to Sudan.
Jambon said it was important to be able to resume the expulsion of the migrants, otherwise traffickers could chose Belgium as the place to take Sudanese from neighbouring countries.