The number of migrants in transit to the United Kingdom identified in Belgium has fallen by more than 90% in four years, Belgian Justice Minister Vincent Van Quickenborne announced on Wednesday, attributing the decrease to the fight against smuggling networks. .
Less than a thousand (944) of these “
” were intercepted by the Belgian police in 2022, compared to some 12,800 in 2018. A drop which is explained, according to the minister, by
the “deterrent effect
” of an intensification of checks carried out in Belgium and criminal convictions pronounced against the smugglers.
Networks to be dismantled
Since the beginning of 2019, 116 people have been sentenced in West Flanders (coastal region) for human trafficking - including 51 by "
" and 65 by trucks or containers - to prison terms of up to 12 years and fines up to 968,000 euros.
A team of experts within the judicial police of West Flanders, set up in 2021, systematically reads the data from the mobile phones of intercepted migrants and smugglers.
Read alsoMigrants: in Brussels, a totally saturated reception network
Thanks to this, we can also dismantle networks
," said Vincent Van Quickenborne during a press conference in a police hangar in Ostend, where confiscated equipment, such as life jackets and inflatable boats, were stored. .
Equipment intended for crossings to the United Kingdom from the French coasts, according to the Belgian federal prosecutor's office, departures from the Belgian coasts being almost non-existent.
Attempts to cross the Channel are still more numerous, some 52,000 migrants having tried in 2022 to reach England from the French coast on makeshift boats, among which 8,300 were rescued and brought back to France, according to the French authorities. .
Importance of international cooperation
The goal is for Belgium to no longer be used as a transit country for these people.
Today, it is clear that we got the result we wanted, but we obviously have to remain vigilant
,” said Vincent Van Quickenborne, indicating that the smugglers “
use other countries
The Belgian authorities stress the importance of "
extensive international cooperation
", with the United Kingdom, France, the Netherlands and Germany, to dismantle these trafficking networks.
The Minister recalled that last July, following a request from an investigating judge in Bruges, 18 people had been arrested in Germany, involved in a network organizing crossings on small boats.
Migrants in transit to the UK “
are increasingly trying to make the journey via small boats.
In the past, it was more trucks.
That has changed
”, observes the director of the federal judicial police of West Flanders, Kurt Desoete. “
But the number of criminal organizations which take part in this phenomenon has not really decreased
”, adds the official.