Interior Minister calls for exclusion orders for seaside trouble-makers

An extraordinary meeting of the Home Affairs Select Committee of the Federal Parliament is being held today to discuss the violence on Blankenberge Beach last Saturday. Speaking at the Select Committee the Interior Minister Pieter De Crem (Flemish Christian democrat, photo above) said that he is working on a system that would make it possible to issue exclusion orders to trouble-makers that would ban them from the entire coast and large recreation parks (such as Hofstade in Flemish Brabant and De Ster in East Flanders). He is also in favour of people with a criminal record or that have been issued with anti-social behaviour fines being obliged to remain at home during heatwaves. Mr De Crem was keen to stress that here was no shortage of police back-up on Saturday. “A total of 135 police officers were available”, he told the Select Committee. 

The Select Committee members questioned the Interior Minister about the events at the coast last weekend. A number of them said that the large number of people that went to the coast was “perfectly predictable”.

However, most questions were about the few dozen trouble-makers that were involved in the violent incident at Blankenberge. Some members of the Committee accused the Federal Government of leaving the Mayors of costal municipalities in the lurch and said that there was no plan from the government for domestic tourism in times of corona.

Some Select Committee members demanded measures to deal will people that go to costal resorts to cause trouble. Mr De Crem announced that he is working on legislation that would make it possible to impose exclusion orders on trouble makers. The exclusion orders would ban them from the coast and large recreation parks at certain times such as during heatwaves. The system will work rather like the orders banning those convicted of offences at or around football stadiums from the vicinity of grounds on match days. Whether or not the exclusion orders would (or could) be imposed by means of administrative sanctions or a would have to be imposed by a court has still to be examined.

"I shall continue to act to maintain public order”, Mr De Crem said “These guys are not in charge here and they will never be”.

Mr De Crem also called for those that have been issued with exclusion orders to be obliged to report to the police each day during heatwaves. This would enable the police to be sure that they were not contravening their exclusion order. The Interior Minister said that he is against closing railway station at costal resorts as “It would be out of all proportion and would punish ordinary day-trippers”. 

"Time was lost"

The Interior Minister dismissed the criticism from some quarters that there wasn’t enough back-up from the Federal Police during last weekend’s trouble in Blanckenberge. Mr De Crem said that the Federal Police had sent more than 80 officers as back-up and that other local police services had sent officers to help their colleagues in Blankenberge.

“At no time were there any reports of there being a shortage of police officers that could be deployed”. He added that Federal Police support to local police services at the coast is a thrice the level this year than it was in previous years.

The Interior Minister laid some of the blame at the local authorities in Blankenberge that he says should have ensured that there weren’t too many people on the beach as the tide came in. “The first signs of youths causing trouble came in at 2pm, but it was 5:30pm before any action was taken. So time was lost”.

Mr De Crem denies that on Sunday police in Blankenberge used ethnic profiling. "Checks were carried out according to numbers because gatherings of more than ten people are banned whatever their ethnic background is. Potential alcohol use is also a reason to act immediately as is drug use”. 

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