Even Belgian Police Don’t Feel Safe Going to the Brussels Airport
If there’s one thing the Brussels airport is going to need a lot of when it reopens, it’s police officers. But the cops told to report there for work Friday evening are refusing to show up, claiming that Belgian officials have not taken sufficient measures to ensure they will be safe when they go back ...
If there’s one thing the Brussels airport is going to need a lot of when it reopens, it’s police officers.
But the cops told to report there for work Friday evening are refusing to show up, claiming that Belgian officials have not taken sufficient measures to ensure they will be safe when they go back to work.
Vincent Gille, president of the 22,000-member SFLP Police union, told the BBC that officers are now on strike because there need to be metal detectors and body scanners put in place outside of the terminals. Brussels has refused to comply with that request, claiming that it would encourage crowds to gather outside of the airport and make the area more difficult to monitor, thus putting the airport further at risk of another attack.
The Zaventem airport has been closed since Islamic State terrorists detonated themselves there and in the Brussels subway system on Mar. 22. Ten people died in the airport attack, while more than 100 others were wounded.
“We are on strike because of what happened on the 22nd of March,” Gille told the BBC. “We cannot continue as if this day has not happened. The police feel the security measures put in place by the airport company are insufficient for those who work and use the airport, which includes the police.”
Airport officials announced earlier this week that the departures gate would partially reopen Friday evening, but would only be able to handle 800 passengers per hour. The airport is not expected to open at full operating capacity for months.
But now airport operators are walking back on plans to reopen partially at all, saying Friday that evening flights would not go ahead as planned due to the police strikes. And Gille said that Belgian officials shouldn’t act surprised by officers’ hesitance to return to work.
“The local colleagues in Zaventem are tired of dealing with a certain lax attitude toward security for a number of years now,” he said.
Belgian Defense Minister Steven Vandeput, on the other hand, said that there needs to be “a balance between economic needs and security needs.”
According to Gille, addressing the security situation will naturally improve the economic situation as well. He argues that it’s not just not police who expect a certain level of protection when they go to the airport: so do the visitors who help boost Brussels’ tourist economy.
“Essentially and practically the only signal that will satisfy our colleagues and the general public in their right to security would be to have security checks on people at the entrance,” he said. “And even before that, before reaching the parking lots, we need vehicle checks.”
Photo credit: HATIM KAGHAT/AFP/Getty Images