Migrant dies trying to get into ship at Belgian port

Migrant dies trying to get into ship at Belgian port
Fence at the Zeebrugge port. Credit: Eric Lalmand / Belga

A person who is suspected to be a migrant in transit was killed on Wednesday morning in a reported accident in the port of Zeebrugge, the Bruges division of the West Flanders public prosecutor's office announced.

Around 08:30 on Wednesday morning, P&O Ferries informed the maritime police of the victim's death. The victim was allegedly attempting to get onto a roll-on roll-off vessel by clinging to the underside of a container.

"According to initial findings, the man involved was an as of yet unidentified man, who had entered the port of Zeebrugge and was probably trying to board the vessel when containers were being loaded onto it," the public prosecutor's office noted in a statement.

"There, he must have in all likelihood clung to a container, where he fell over. It seems that the man then collided with the container or the wheels, during which is died instantly."

The public prosecutor visited the scene of the incident and sent an official doctor to investigate the scene. The identity of the victim could not yet be identified, however, the federal police's Disaster Victim Identification (DVI) team was called in to carry out this task.

Dangers involved

The man was, according to initial reports, hoping to cross from Belgium into the UK via a different route following a deal struck between France and the UK to reduce the number of people attempting to make the perilous crossing of the English Channel, an agreement that was made after he British Ministry of Defence reported the number of migrants leaving France for the UK on makeshift boats hit a new record high mark at the end of November.

In light of so-called "irregular border crossings" being on the rise, the UK and France came to a multi-million euro bilateral agreement to reduce the number of people attempting to cross, which was condemned by refugee groups who argued this failed to set out any concrete plans to expand these routes through a resettlement programme or an expansion in family reunion visas.

"All the Home Office figures show that in fact the vast majority are desperate women, men and children doing everything they can to protect their families by fleeing war, conflict and persecution," a statement on UK-based NGO Refugee Council read. "Without safe routes, they have no choice but to take dangerous journeys."

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Later, the UK's Home Secretary Suella Braverman again met with her counterpart in France, as well as those in Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands at the start of December to discuss plans to further strengthen efforts to combat such crossings.

However, the French Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin has since warned that the deal itself is incomplete, as people smugglers are still able to operate in neighbouring EU countries like Belgium and the Netherlands, and that more steadfast border deals need to be made with other countries too.

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