Thomas Brooke, Remix, October 23, 2023
More than half of all people arrested in the Belgian capital of Brussels in September were living in the country illegally, the head of the city’s police force revealed.
Speaking to De Tijd newspaper, police chief Michel Goovaerts said that illegal migrants comprised the majority of all arrests last month and admitted that often those detained were released without consequence because deportation attempts to many Arab nations are futile.
“We made 585 arrests, of which 298 were of illegal immigrants,” he told the Dutch-language Belgian newspaper.
A third of those arrested who were living in Belgium illegally were detained purely because of their immigration status, but two-thirds had committed criminal offenses such as robbery and theft, Goovaerts explained.
He did not provide data for what percentage of the others arrested were foreign nationals living lawfully in the country.
Goovaerts revealed that many illegal immigrants living in Brussels turn to theft or other criminal enterprises such as drug or human trafficking due to the fact that they are unable to earn a legal income in the country, leading to a daily fight for survival.
“Handbags or watches being pulled from shoulders and wrists” and general pickpocketing have become notorious in the capital, he said, much of which is attributed to its increasing illegal immigrant population.
Despite many individuals being identified by authorities and detained, however, most arrests come to nothing. Goovaerts explained that it is protocol for the police to contact the public prosecutor’s office and the Immigration Office when an illegal immigrant is apprehended, but due to the absence of efficient processes to return migrants to their home countries, many are often just released back into society.
“Sometimes we pick someone up in the morning and release him again in the afternoon,” the police chief admitted.
“You cannot send Moroccans, Algerians, and Tunisians back because their home countries would rather get rid of them than get rich. And there is no room or staff in the closed asylum centers. You can imagine the frustration among our corps,” he told the newspaper.
The reality contradicts the rhetoric expressed by Prime Minister Alexander De Croo during a speech in the Belgian parliament on Thursday in which he claimed, “Anyone staying in the country illegally has no right to a place in society.”
One Tunisian who could have been deported, however, was Abdesalem Lassoued, the radicalized Islamist escaped convict who fled Tunis to Brussels and shot dead two Swedish football fans last week in a terror attack.
Lassoued had been the subject of an extradition request by the Tunisian authorities after escaping prison where he was serving a 26-year sentence for two counts of attempted murder.
The request was received by Belgian authorities in August last year but was lost among paperwork and never actioned, an error that resulted in the resignation of Justice Minister Vincent Van Quickenborne late on Friday evening.