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‘Black list’ of troublemakers no longer welcome at recreation parks

17:20 11/06/2021

Federal interior minister Annelies Verlinden has said that a database of names of people no longer welcome at recreation parks in Belgium would be developed, following Ghent’s decision to draw up a ‘black list’.

Ghent has started a black list of names following an incident at the Blaarmeersen recreational park on Wednesday evening. A number of youth from Brussels arrived at the popular swimming spot, harassed the lifeguards and eventually instigated a brawl.

The Blaarmeersen is home to a swimming lake with a beach and campground. It’s free to access but anyone wanting to visit from outside of East Flanders must reserve in advance. It costs €1 for a reservation.

The reservation system was in fact launched to prevent incidents of youth travelling in and causing trouble, which was a problem last year. Police assume that the group of young men from Brussels climbed over security fencing to access the site on Wednesday, the first day this year the lake has been open to swimmers.

A brawl involving the group broke out in the early evening, with fighting and projectiles thrown at security. Lifeguards and security could not keep the situation under control and quickly called the police.

Two people had to be taken to hospital, including a security agent hit in the head by a bottle. Two people were arrested, and police are scanning camera footage to identify other suspects.

Repeat scenarios

The scenario was similar to what happened on the beach at Blankenberge at the coast last summer. While last year’s incidents were linked to corona, Ghent is keen to make sure it does not become a regular occurrence and is preparing a list of people no longer welcome in the park.

“Those who cannot behave can’t come back,” said Ghent mayor Mathias De Clercq (Open VLD). “We’re not putting up with this anymore.”

Extra security cameras are being installed and the cost to reserve a spot for those coming from outside East Flanders raises from €1 to €5. Reservations will have to be made at least one day in advance. Glass has also been banned from the park.

“The Blaarmeersen is there for locals to enjoy,” said De Clercq. “What happened on Wednesday is a disgrace and completely unacceptable. “We will also carry out ID checks, even of people who are heading towards the Blaarmeersen from the train station.”

Brawl in Blankenberge
The brawl in Blankenberge last summer followed a day of drinking by Brussels youth on the beach

Federal interior minister Annelies Verlinden not only agrees with the idea of a black list, she announced that a nationwide database would be developed with names of people who cause trouble at outdoor recreation spots.

The database will become part of the existing police data, she said. Details still need to be finalised, but the idea is that there will be a category of people who have been banned from recreation parks. It is unclear whether someone banned from one recreation park would then be banned from all of them, and for how long.

Benjamin Dalle, minister in the Flemish government charged with Brussels affairs and youth, agrees with such a system, which he finds “logical” but argued that privacy laws must be respected. Following the incident in Ghent, he tweeted: “I am so tired of this. You are ruining it for everyone. This needs to stop, not just for everyone who just wants to enjoy a day in the water but also for all Brussels youth who have never done anything wrong.”

Photos, from top: ©Leiestreek Tourism, ©Maarten Weynants/BELGA

 

Written by Lisa Bradshaw

Comments

Frank Lee

"You are ruining it for everyone." So true. As always, the majority of us has to suffer because of the actions of a few imbeciles.

Jun 14, 2021 15:37