Belgian port authorities have recorded a 50 percent increase in the number of migrants arrested while trying to illegally cross into the UK.
The increase in UK-bound migrants was detected in the port of Zeebrugge in the Belgian province of West Flanders.
Belgian police have reportedly arrested 968 UK-bound migrants in the first quarter of this year in or around the Port of Zeebrugge, Belgium’s second biggest harbour after Antwerp.
Pictures Credit: CEN
It marks a remarkable increase compared to both 2017 and 2018, when 517 and 632 illegal immigrants were arrested in the first three months respectively.
The numbers were shared by the Bruges city authorities, of which Zeebrugge is officially part of.
Maaike De Vreese of the New Flemish Alliance (N-VA), a Flemish nationalist party and the largest in the Dutch-speaking Flanders region of Belgium, said that such a rise “should set off loud alarm bells”.
De Vreese said: “The numbers show that the problem of UK-bound migrants in Zeebrugge, to the contrary of what many believe due to the ongoing media silence, is still abundantly present at the port.”
De Vreese’s party called for an increase in police searches, permanent security along the motorway service areas near the coast, and enclosed camps where UK-bound migrants can be detained.
Belgium has frequently been a hotspot for migrants trying to make their way to the UK, with many hiding near service stations and parking areas trying to sneak onto lorries, or in ports hoping to hop onto a ferry.
Dutch transport organisation Transport and Logistics Netherlands (TLN), warned its members “not to stop in Belgium” due to migrants trying to hitch a ride and even robbing and assaulting lorry drivers.
Spokeswoman Cleo Vissers said: “There are too few places in Belgium where security can be guaranteed.”
In August last year, a Sudanese migrant suffered life-threatening injuries on the E40 Motorway after a gunfight erupted between dozens of migrants trying to find a ride to the UK.
In January last year, a UK-bound migrant died in Jabbeke after he ran onto a motorway to escape the police and was hit by a car.
Three lorry drivers were also beaten up at an E17 Motorway service area near Gentbrugge by illegal immigrants trying to enter the UK.
Dutch lorry driver Remco Bruinier, who witnessed the fight, said that “the stories about Calais are also starting to appear here too”.
He said: “Politicians really need to wake up or else we will have to arm ourselves.”