Belgian police chief says “transmigrant population is growing”
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Belgian police chief says “transmigrant population is growing”

127 bis: the administrative centre for transmigrants in Steenokkerzeel

The number of so-called transmigrants in Kruibeke is still on the rise, says chief of the police zone Kruibeke-Temse, Wim Pieteraerens, in an interview with De Standaard on Monday. “We see no improvement. I would even dare say that the situation has deteriorated,” says Pieteraerens. Now that the Wetteren parking lot is closed at night, more migrants are coming to  Kruibeke. The parking area is poorly secured, if at all. Migrants have many opportunities to escape. Every day we see groups of thirty, sometimes even sixty, walking on the street. They have become even more desperate,” he adds.

At the end of August Pieteraerens was already sounding the alarm. He said he no longer actively sought out and picked up transmigrants, because there was no point in doing so. It took a whole night’s work to take their fingerprints and wait for the Immigration Department to hear what had to be done with them. Usually they had to be released, afterwhich they returned the same place the next day.

The criticism from other zones and mayors grew and forced Jan Jambon (N-VA, Home Affairs) and Theo Francken (N-VA, Asylum and Migration) to take measures. The national administrative centre in Steenokkerzeel opened in mid-September. The federal police would pick up arrested transmigrants by bus and bring them to the centre. The purpose was to relieve the local forces.

Pieteraerens called the centre “window dressing”: “We had hoped that the Steenokkerzeel centre would make our work easier, but we don’t feel it. Sometimes there is only room for ten migrants, while thirty have been arrested. In the end, most of them are released, so they are back here in two days. The centre was a short-term response but does not offer a solution.”

“It also happens regularly that, following reports of nuisance from citizens, we pick up ten to twenty migrants, whom we have to deal with ourselves. This hinders our operational strength for the whole night. I have a force of 115 officers, and still I’m 14 people short,” says Pieteraerens.

“I don’t get involved in politics. But can you keep arresting people and releasing them again and again? They don’t want to stay here. And we don’t want them. It may be an easy solution, but why don’t we let them go to England?”, Pieteraerens asks.

In response to Pieteraerens criticism, Theo Francken said, in De Ochtend, the new approach of transporting transmigrants stopped by local police to the administrative centre of Steenokkerzeel “works well”.

Arthur Rubinstein
The Brussels Times