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Belgian police on strike: exhausted by policing Muslim neighbourhoods

By David Frankenhuis
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A severe case of ‘blue flu’ has reached parts of Brussels, where the past 24 hours dozens of police constables working for the local Intervention Squad have collectively called in ‘sick’. One of the neighbourhoods concerned is the Molenbeek-area, located in the west of the Belgian capital. This precinct is dominated by Muslim migrants from northern Africa, mainly Morocco, and has gained notoriety due to high crime levels, religious extremism, and support for terrorist networks.

The 25 striking cops claim to be fed up with the many hours of working overtime. Their commissioner, who suddenly had to look for replacements, was not amused. “I understand their concerns, but these kind of actions are simply not acceptable“, chief of police Johan De Becker told Het Nieuwsblad. He is also disappointed in the government, which had promised extra officers but failed to deliver. “We suffer a structural shortage of 125 staffers“, the captain said. “The workload is enormous due to the fight against radicalism. It makes sense that the officers ask for reinforcements.

Kris Verstraeten, a police constable and union spokesman, calls the strike “a spontaneous action of people who have been broken by the immense workload“. According to him, there’s a severe shortage of police personnel. “There are supposed to be 24 chief constables, but we only have 13.” Besides, the 140 man Brussels-West police force is crippled by 32 vacancies they seem unable to fill. Verstraeten: “The only reason the force is still functioning, is the good will of the remaining officers, so I sincerely sympathise with their actions.” Each night, dozens of police interventions are required in the 5 precincts that make up the western part of the Belgian capital to keep the fragile peace in the virtual no-go area.

‘Terror neighborhood’
Molenbeek sheltered many Muslim terrorists on the run and was a fertile breeding ground for militant Islamists as well. The killers of the Afghan anti-Taliban commander Ahmed Shah Massoud lived in the neighborhood, just like one of the 2004 Madrid bombers and the attacker of the Jewish Museum of Belgium (2014). Perhaps most shockingly, several members of the jihadist gang surrounding Salah Abdeslam, responsible for the recent terror attacks in Paris and Brussels, are tied closely to Molenbeek. Abdeslam himself even managed to ‘hide’ there – although in plain sight for the whole neighbourhood to see – after the Bataclan massacre, while local youth threw stones and bottles at police and press during his arrest. According to a secret report obtained by the Wall Street Journal, the Belgian security services missed many opportunities to catch the terrorists earlier and “screwed up the investigation“.

‘Migration soars’
In spite of all the hardship Belgian police already face in their ‘multicultural’ districts, the national government decided nevertheless to approve more asylum applications in 2016 than ever before. According to GvA, most of the more than 15.000 new Belgians are from predominantly Islamic countries such as Syria, Afghanistan, and Iraq.

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