Plans by Belgian police to limit access to the Belgian coast to people arriving by train and fitting a certain profile have prompted accusations of ethnic profiling on social media.
A police spokesman with the Blankenberge police zone announced that officers will carry out checks on arriving trains and send away anyone with a profile similar to that of a group of youths who got into a major brawl with police at the weekend.
"If we see that there are young people with the same profile as those who caused unrest yesterday, we will send them back home," Philip Denoyette, spokesman for the Blankenberge police said in a TV interview.
"The trains are of course a bit more difficult because there are crowds coming out. Together with our colleagues of the federal police, we will go to the platform and see who leaves the train," he said.
"If we see that there are young people with the same profile as thouse who caused unrest yesterday, we will stop them and send them back home."
The spokesman's statements come after a group of youths in Blankenberge used parasols, sunbeds and windsurfing poles as weapons in a face-off with police officers and lifeguards, bringing chaos to a beach packed with day-trippers on one of the hottest days of an ongoing heatwave.
After being circulated online, Deneyotte's statements caused outrage among social media users, with many accusing the coastal police zone of openly admitting to plans to ethnically profile people.
On Instagram Vinz, a TV host of the Francophone show Tarmac, said the announcement was "serious," since it targetted people of a certain ethnic or racial origin to unfounded police checks, excluding them from spending the day at the beach.
"To sum up, if I go to Blankenberge for a day, I will be checked [by police] because I am from Brussels and look like the people who got into a fight, according to their prejudices," Vinz wrote.
"I will be sent back home on the train, banned from going to a city in my own country, unlike others who do not have the same profile as me."
According to Flemish public broadcaster VRT, the police have dismissed the accusations of racial or ethnic profiling, saying that they would be carrying out checks on big groups of young people, regardless of origin.
The Brussels Times