Police arrest seven transmigrants during anti-human smuggling operation in Antwerp
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Police arrest seven transmigrants during anti-human smuggling operation in Antwerp

Rather than focusing on motorways, the operation targeted trams that bring transmigrants in the direction of parking lots alongside motorways. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

Police arrested seven transmigrants on Wednesday evening during a four-hour-long operation against human smuggling in Antwerp.

The operation, which began at around 9:00 PM, was conducted in collaboration between local and federal police units, De Lijn inspectors, the Immigration Office and the public prosector’s office. Rather than focusing the operation in parking lots, the operation targeted trams that bring transmigrants in the direction of parking lots alongside motorways.

“Here [on trams] our operations are less risky than in the car parks because when transmigrants try to escape there, it sometimes leads to dangerous situations… they are trapped on the buses and trams. [The fact that] they cannot leave is safer for the transmigrants themselves and also for us,” Director-coordinator of the Antwerp Federal Police, Jean-Claude Gunst, told Gazet Van Antwerpen.

A total of 40 police officers were spread across three different locations; the tram terminal at the park and ride in Wommelgem, the shopping centre of Wijnegem and another place not far from a motorway.

Police arrested a total of seven transmigrants, some of whom said they were from Eritrea and Guinea.

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“The ultimate goal is to get to gangs who make huge amounts of money through human trafficking through intercepting transmigrants. We want to tackle them. For this, we need information that we receive verbally from picking up migrants or through the documents that they have in their pocket or possibly by reading their mobile phone,” Gunst added.

Interior Minister, Pieter De Crem (CD&V), came to observe the operation and thank the police, VRT explains.

“Four hundred transmigrants have already been arrested since 1 December,” said De Crem, who added that “there are now permanent operations against transmigration. It is not because Brexit is coming or because the end-of-year period is coming closer, it is a permanent concern,” the minister explained.

Evie McCullough
The Brussels Times

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