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Calls mount to send troops to Antwerp port as part of war on drugs

by editor

Politicians from across the spectrum have called for the army to be sent to the port of Antwerp after new figures showed a record amount of cocaine was seized in 2022.

Deputy Prime Minister David Clarinval, from the French-speaking liberal party MR, said on RTBF: ” I want to call in the army to help the police,” adding that the port of Antwerp must “have more resources.”

His call came a day after it was revealed that Belgian authorities seized a record 110 tons of cocaine at the port of Antwerp in 2022, and two days after an 11-year-old girl was shot dead in Antwerp in what is believed to be a drug-related incident.

Antwerp Mayor Bart De Wever, leader of the New Flemish Alliance (N-VA), has also this month called for troops “to guard the port of Antwerp.” De Wever called for talks with Interior Minister Annelies Verlinden and Justice Minister Vincent Van Quickenborne, and said the National Security Council should be convened to discuss the matter.

Both ministers have so far rejected calls for the army to get involved. Van Quickenborne said: “You don’t want to live in a country where the army replaces the police” and Verlinden argued that “the army isn’t properly equipped or trained to deal with this.”

Verlinden instead pointed to the additional measures announced Tuesday, including plans to recruit more than 100 new employees in the port of Antwerp and to purchase new scanning equipment.

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