Mayor closes hotel allegedly used by underage prostitutes

For the second time in just a few months the Mayor of Antwerp Bart De Wever (nationalist) has ordered the temporary closure of a hotel in the city after it was discovered that it was being used by underage prostitutes. The hotel on the Koningin Astridplein, near to Antwerp Central railway station will remain closed for three weeks. 

The police and the Judicial Authorities have known for some time that the sexual exploitation of minors has been taking place at the hotel. In January 2018 a number of people were convicted of human trafficking after they had made an underage girl work as a prostitute using a room at the hotel.

The hotel was ordered to introduce a water-tight registration system for the identification of its customers. It was also ordered to carry out checks on the identities of those entering the building. However, a during number of checks carried by the police on the situation at the hotel in the autumn of last year under-age girls that were in the company of men that were not registered as guests were found in rooms at the hotel. Attempts since to resolve the issue have done nothing to change the situation.

Mr De Wever has decided that it is time to act and has ordered the temporary closure of the hotel as it is a threat to public order.

Mr De Wever’s spokesman Johan Vermant told the VRT that "There is at the very least serious suspicion the sexual exploitation of minor is taking place in the hotel. This has been underlined by an earlier ruling by the criminal court and a number of checks that have been carried out there”.

"The hotel has also not been able to prove that enough measures have been taken to register the identity of the guests and to check who, in particular minors, is coming into the building”, Mr Vermant added.

The closure is designed to act as a deterrent. Previously the Le Sud Hotel in the south of Antwerp was also closed temporarily for the same reason.

Under a municipal by-law the Mayor has the power to temporarily close businesses if their activities pose a threat to public order. He can also be informed of any investigations into the sexual exploitation of minors thanks to a protocol that was drawn up between the State Prosecutor’s Office, the police and the City of Antwerp.