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Belgians who sheltered migrants acquitted of people smuggling
Four Belgians who sheltered migrants in their homes have been found not guilty of involvement in a people smuggling operation.
A Brussels court on Wednesday ruled that two journalists, a volunteer social worker at the former Maximilian park migrant camp and a fourth defendant could not be considered accomplices in human trafficking.
They had opened up their homes to migrants transiting Belgium towards the UK. The public prosecutor's office had claimed that the defendants provided important assistance.
The court heard that one of the journalists lent her mobile phone to a man staying with her, who she knew was involved in organising transport for migrants to get across the Channel.
The Maximilian park volunteer was accused of giving a map to a migrant she had let stay at her home, highlighting motorway service stations on the E40 where people smugglers were known to operate.
The four Belgian defendants were arrested in October 2017 after police analysed the telephone call records of a group of suspected people smugglers caught at a motorway service area in Wetteren, near Ghent.
Seven other suspects, all of whom were staying in Belgium illegally, were handed suspended jail sentences ranging from 12 to 40 months for helping other migrants reach the UK for a fee.