Migrants Found Safe In Two Trucks In Belgium

Belgium’s map

 

Twenty migrants were found in good health in two separate trucks in Belgium on Saturday, according to local prosecutors.

Eleven African men, women and children — mainly from Eritrea — were found in a truck in the city of Saint-Trond, 65 kilometres (40 miles) east of Brussels, the Limbourg prosecutors said.

The truck, en route to the United Kingdom, stopped for a mechanical problem at a garage when the migrants were found.

Meanwhile, police also found nine men hidden in a truck in Bruges, in northeastern Belgium, en route to the port of Zeebrugge.

The men, who said they were Iraqi nationals, were also found in good health, according to the prosecutor of West Flanders quoted by the Belga news agency.

Because of its proximity to the UK, Belgium is frequently used as a route for migrants and trafficking networks.

Thirty-nine people were found dead this week in a refrigerated truck near London whose container had arrived from Zeebrugge.

Five people have been arrested in connection with the case.

Police on Tuesday also arrested three men of Iraqi origin suspected of trafficking 16 people in a van in the north western port city of Ghent, according to the Antwerp public prosecutor’s office.

AFP

Horror In Britain As 39 Found Dead In Truck

In this collage, Police officers inspect and drive away a lorry in which 39 dead bodies were discovered sparking a murder investigation at Waterglade Industrial Park in Grays, east of London, on October 23, 2019. 

 

Britain launched a major murder investigation after 39 dead bodies were found Wednesday in a refrigerated truck, once again putting the spotlight on the shadowy people trafficking business.

The corpses were found in the truck container at an industrial park in Grays, east of London, triggering outrage among politicians.

The local Essex Police force, which is working with immigration officials, said their initial priority was to try to identify the victims, thought at this stage to be 38 adults and one teenager.

The truck driver, a 25-year-old man from Northern Ireland, has been arrested on suspicion of murder.

“This is an unimaginable tragedy and truly heart-breaking,” Prime Minister Boris Johnson said.

He said the perpetrators of people smuggling, trading in human lives, “should be hunted down and brought to justice”.

Police were called to the scene at the Waterglade Industrial Park at around 1:40am (0040 GMT).

Officers in white forensic suits could be seen working by the truck and a white tent was erected outside.

“We are in the process of identifying the victims. However I anticipate that this could be a lengthy process,” said Essex Police chief superintendent Andrew Mariner.

“We have arrested the lorry driver in connection with the incident, who remains in police custody.”

Tracing the route

Police said the truck had come by ferry from the Belgian port of Zeebrugge into Purfleet, close to Grays on the River Thames estuary — a crossing that takes nine to 12 hours.

They said the ferry docked at 12:30 am (2330 GMT).

Police also said the truck came “from Bulgaria”.

But the country’s Prime Minister Boyko Borisov said it had “no connection” to the country except for having Bulgarian licence plates.

“The truck was registered in 2017 by an Irish citizen, it left Bulgaria then and has not entered our country’s territory ever since,” he told national television.


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Police Recover 39 Bodies In Container Near London

Police Say Truck Containing 39 Bodies Entered From Belgium


Dimitar Dimitrov, executive director of the Bulgarian Chamber of Road Hauliers, told AFP many foreign hauliers registered in Bulgaria for financial reasons, and doubted whether a Bulgarian firm would employ Irish drivers.

Britain’s National Crime Agency said the number of migrants being smuggled into the UK in containers and trucks had risen in the last year.

In May the NCA said there had been “increasing use of higher risk methods of clandestine entry” to Britain by organised immigration crime gangs.

‘Evil’ contempt for life

Jackie Doyle-Price, the MP representing the local Thurrock constituency, called people trafficking a “vile and dangerous business”.

“To put 39 people into a locked metal container shows a contempt for human life that is evil,” she said.

The gruesome discovery drew comparisons to previous cases.

In 2000, the bodies of 58 clandestine Chinese immigrants were discovered in a Dutch truck at the southeastern English port of Dover. Two people survived.

In 2014, some 34 Afghan Sikhs were found inside a shipping container at Tilbury port — next to Grays — suffering from severe dehydration, hypothermia and lack of air. One man was found dead, having passed away during the sea crossing from Belgium.

In August 2015, at the peak of Europe’s migration crisis, the bodies of 71 migrants including a baby girl were found piled up in the back of a poultry refrigerator lorry left in Austria.

Investigations later revealed they had been transported along the Balkan migrant route and left to suffocate in the back of the truck after the driver dumped the vehicle near the Hungarian border.

Britain And EU Strike Brexit Deal Ahead Of Summit

An official hangs a Union Jack next to an European Union flag at EU Headquarters in Brussels on October 17, 2019, ahead of a European Union Summit on Brexit. Kenzo TRIBOUILLARD / AFP

 

Britain and the European Union reached a last-ditch Brexit deal on Thursday, just hours before an EU summit that is expected to give it a seal of approval.

But Prime Minister Boris Johnson will still have to take the accord to a sceptical British parliament for its backing on Saturday, and it is far from certain that it will pass.

Johnson, who has pledged to take Britain out of the EU with or without an agreement, tweeted: “We’ve got a great new deal that takes back control — now Parliament should get Brexit done on Saturday.”

EU officials are pleased they avoided an immediate crisis at the European Council summit, and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker recommended that the other 27 EU leaders endorse the deal.

READ ALSO: N. Ireland’s DUP Says Opposition To Brexit Deal Remains

“Where there is a will, there is a deal — we have one! It’s a fair and balanced agreement for the EU and the UK and it is testament to our commitment to find solutions,” Juncker tweeted.

The draft agreement was forged just weeks before Britain was due to leave the bloc on October 31, ending more than four decades of close economic and political ties with its nearest neighbours.

Chief EU negotiator Michel Barnier said: “We have managed to find solutions that fully respect the integrity of the single market.

“We created a new and legally operative solution to avoid a hard border, and protect peace and stability on the island of Ireland,” he said.

“It is a solution that works for the EU, for the UK and for people and businesses in Northern Ireland.”

One immediate hurdle is opposition from Johnson’s allies in Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), which pre-emptively rejected the compromise.

The agreement would see the British-ruled province remain under EU customs and Value Added Tax (VAT) rules, and the loyalist DUP announced that it can not support it.

It is not clear how many of Johnson’s Conservative MPs will back the deal, and if the British opposition could vote it down or attempt to force a nationwide referendum to approve or reject it.

Before setting off for Brussels, German Chancellor Angela Merkel noted approvingly that London had been ready to negotiate and put “concrete proposals on the table”.

Economic disruption

Under the measures to replace the so-called “Irish backstop” in the previous failed agreement, the plan would see Northern Ireland remain British legal territory but trade under EU regulations.

This is intended to prevent the return of a hard border with EU-member Ireland. But, because it would involve some customs and tax checks with the rest of the UK, it raised the hackles of the DUP.

EU negotiator Michel Barnier was to give a news conference to outline more details of the deal.

But one EU source told AFP the agreement “is politically fragile in London” because of Johnson’s reliance on votes from the DUP and Conservative eurosceptics.

The leaders also hope the summit will rise above the Brexit mire and focus on the EU budget debate, bids by North Macedonia and Albania to start talks to join the bloc, and the crisis in relations with Turkey.

The Brexit issue is first on the agenda, with the EU’s 27 other leaders to hear Johnson speak then retire to mull their response. But the issue could be delayed to Friday if the deal text needs more work.

Belgium Emerge First Team To Qualify For Euro 2020

Belgium’s forward Romelu Lukaku (L) fights for the ball with San Marino’s goalkeeper Simone Benedettini during the Euro 2020 qualifier group I football game between Belgium and San Marino on October 10, 2019, in Brussels. YORICK JANSENS / BELGA / AFP

 

Belgium became the first team to qualify for the 2020 European Championship finals after thrashing San Marino 9-0 in Brussels on Thursday.

Romelu Lukaku took his record Belgian international tally past 50 goals with a double as Roberto Martinez’s Group I leaders opened up an unassailable 11-point lead over third-placed Cyprus with three games remaining.

The world-number-one ranked side booked their spot at next year’s tournament, which will be played at 12 venues across Europe, after seven straight qualifying wins.

Russia appear set to take the second automatic slot from the group, after a 4-0 win over Scotland moved them eight points ahead of Cyprus.

Belgium will be one of the favourites as they look to lift a first major international title when the Euros get underway on June 12.

Belgium were forced to wait until the 28th minute for the initial breakthrough on Thursday, which arrived when Leicester midfielder Youri Tielemans fed Lukaku, who fired home his landmark goal under San Marino goalkeeper Simone Benedettini.

The floodgates then opened, as Nacer Chadli slotted into the corner from the edge of the area three minutes later, and visiting defender Cristian Brolli scored a comical own goal 10 minutes before the interval as Benedettini pushed the ball against his knee and into the net.

Lukaku wasted little time in making it 51 Belgium goals with a low, right-footed effort, before Toby Alderweireld’s deflected strike and Tielemans’ drive made it six before half-time.

Substitute Christian Benteke drilled in number seven with 11 minutes remaining, 18-year-old Yari Verschaeren scored his first international goal from the penalty spot, and Atalanta defender Timothy Castagne completed the rout in the 90th minute.

Injured De Bruyne Out Of Belgium Euro 2020 Qualifiers Squad

Kevin de Bruyne

 

Manchester City midfielder Kevin De Bruyne was left out of Belgium’s squad for their upcoming Euro 2020 qualifiers due to a groin injury, coach Roberto Martinez announced on Friday.

De Bruyne, 28, missed City’s midweek Champions League win over Dinamo Zagreb after suffering the injury in the Premier League victory over Everton on September 28.

Former captain Vincent Kompany and Lyon defender Jason Denayer also miss out due to fitness issues.

There are doubts about goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois, forward Romelu Lukaku and defender Thomas Meunier with Martinez saying a decision about the three will be made on Monday.

Martinez added he was “relatively optimistic” about Courtois who was replaced at half-time in Real Madrid’s 2-2 draw with Club Brugge on Tuesday due to a stomach problem.

The Red Devils sit top of their group unbeaten before hosting San Marino on October 10 before travelling to Kazakhstan three days later.

Belgium squad

Goalkeepers: Thibaut Courtois (Real Madrid/ESP), Simon Mignolet (Club Brugge), Matz Sels (Strasbourg/FRA), Hendrik Van Crombrugge (Anderlecht)

Defenders: Toby Alderweireld (Tottenham Hotspur/ENG), Dedryck Boyata (Hertha Berlin/GER), Timothy Castagne (Atalanta/ITA), Leander Dendoncker (Wolves/ENG), Brandon Mechele (Club Brugge), Thomas Vermaelen (Vissel Kobe/JAP), Jan Vertonghen (Tottenham Hotspur/ENG), Thomas Meunier (Paris Saint-Germain/FRA)

Midfielders: Yannick Carrasco (Dalian Yifang/CHN), Nacer Chadli (Anderlecht), Dennis Praet (Leicester City/ENG), Maxime Lestienne (Standard Liege), Youri Tielemans (Leicester City/ENG), Hans Vanaken (Club Brugge), Yari Verschaeren (Anderlecht), Axel Witsel (Borussia Dortmund/GER)

Forwards: Michy Batshuayi (Chelsea/ENG), Christian Benteke (Crystal Palace/ENG), Eden Hazard (Real Madrid/ESP), Thorgan Hazard (Borussia Dortmund/GER), Adnan Januzaj (Real Sociedad/ESP), Romelu Lukaku (Inter/ITA), Dries Mertens (Naples/ITA), Divock Origi (Liverpool/ENG).

AFP

Nigeria Moves 12 Spots Up On FIFA Ranking

 

Third Place winners of the African Cup of Nations, Nigeria have moved up 12 spots to become the 33rd position in the latest FIFA Ranking. 

The ranking which was released on Thursday, saw African champions Algeria move up 28 spots to take the 40th position, making them the biggest mover in the July edition by ranks and points (up 117).

Finalist Senegal moved up 2 spaces to take the 20th position, though they did not make a huge leap, they, however, reached their best-ever ranking position.

Madagascar made a surprising leap, the AFCON quarter-finalists clinched the 96th spot, moving up 12 spaces, they are above Benin who moved 6 spaces to take the 82nd position.

READ ALSO: Cameroon Striker Njie Signs For Dynamo Moscow

With the continental finals of Africa, South America and North America and the Caribbean reaching a crescendo in the past month, the latest edition of the FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking sees a number of significant changes.

Unsurprisingly, the regional kings are some of the primary beneficiaries in the July update.

New South American champions Brazil (2nd, up 1) leapfrogged France (3rd, down 1) in second place and trail leaders Belgium by a narrow margin of 20 points. Other sides in Copa America action improved their Ranking positions substantially, namely quarter-finalists Uruguay (5th, up 3), Colombia (8th, up 5), and Venezuela (26th, up 7) – who reach their best-ever Ranking position after their run to the last eight. Bronze-medallists Argentina (10th, up 1) complete a quartet of South American teams in the top ten.

While the South American sides dominate the upper echelons of the Ranking, there have been significant gains by sides taking part in the CAF Africa Cup of Nations and Concacaf Gold Cup, too.

Concacaf champions Mexico (12th, up 6) and fellow finalist USA (22nd, up 8) made big strides up the table with an honourable mention for surprise semi-finalist Haiti (83rd, up 18).

The next FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking will be published on 19 September 2019.

FIFA rankings

1. Belgium

2. Brazil (+1)

3. France (-1)

4. England

5. Uruguay (+3)

6. Portugal (-1)

7. Croatia (-1)

8. Colombia (+5)

9. Spain (+2)

10. Argentina (+1)

Selected:

15. Germany (-4)

16. Italy (-2)

= The Netherlands (+2)

40. Algeria (+28)

 

Owner Of ‘Sugar Daddy’ Site Fined In Belgium

Alleged Bribery: Witness Testifies As Rickey Tarfa’s Trial Continues
File photo

 

An entrepreneur and his firm on Wednesday were fined more than 250,000 euros in Belgium for promoting prostitution through a “Sugar Daddy” dating website for rich men and young women.

The Brussels court also gave Sigurd Vedal, a 57-year-old Norwegian investor and self-described “relationship expert”, a six-month suspended jail term for his site RichMeetBeautiful.com.

The court in the Belgian capital fined Vedal 24,000 euros ($27,000) and his company 240,000 euros ($269,000).

In 2017, as students returned to the Free University of Brussels after their summer break, they were greeted by a truck carrying a mobile advertising hoarding.

The poster showed a woman’s bosom barely covered by a bra and the slogan: “Hey female students, improve your lifestyle, go out with a Sugar Daddy.”

READ ALSO: Prince Harry, Meghan Show Off Their Baby Boy

The truck was seized after the university complained to the police. Vedal was later arrested and charged with “incitement to debauchery and prostitution”.

Laurent Kennes, the lawyer for the Free University of Brussels, welcomed the sentence.

“The site’s temporary closure becomes definitive in Belgium,” Kennes told AFP.

“The decision on whether to appeal belongs to my client,” Vedal’s lawyer Eric Cusas said without elaborating.

During his trial last month, Vedal insisted that he simply wanted to encourage customers to seek dates that were “out of the ordinary”.

But the state prosecutor denounced this argument as “hypocritical” and told the court: “Even if weasel words were used, everyone knew what it was about.

“There are half-dressed women on the site, there are no photos of couples in a restaurant,” she said. “Students are reduced to sex objects that must undress for money.”

Vedal is also under investigation in France, accused of “aggravated pimping” after publicising a version of his site on a Paris campus.

AFP

After 12 years, Fellaini Calls Time On Belgium Career

Marouane Fellaini of Shandong Luneng celebrates after scored during the Chinese Super League (CSL) football match between Shandong Luneng and Beijing Renhe in Jinan in China’s eastern Shandong province on March 1, 2019. STR / AFP

 

Former Manchester United midfielder Marouane Fellaini retired from international duty with Belgium on Thursday, just over a month after swapping Old Trafford for China.

“After twelve years of representing Belgium at the highest level, I have decided to retire from senior international football,” Fellaini said on his Twitter account.

“It has not been an easy decision for me and not one I take lightly.

“However, I feel that the time is right for me to step down and allow the next generation of Belgian players to continue this very successful period in Belgian football history.”

Fellaini, 31, made 87 appearances for Belgium and was part of the squad that finished third at last year’s World Cup.

Belgium are currently top of the FIFA world rankings ahead of France, the team that defeated them in the semi-finals in Russia.

Fellaini left United in February after five-and-a-half years at the club to join Chinese Super League team Shandong Luneng.

He spent six seasons with Everton before following David Moyes to Manchester following Scot’s appointment as the successor to Alex Ferguson.

AFP

Economic Activities Grounded In Belgium Over Strike

Union members stand at Brussels national airport in Zaventem, on the outskirts of the Belgium capital, on February 13, 2019, during a national general strike. THIERRY ROGE / BELGA / AFP

 

Belgium slowed to a standstill on Wednesday as a national strike closed airports, shuttered businesses and caused major disruption to railways.

The strike, called by three unions, severely disrupted the country’s public transport, particularly in Brussels, where a meeting of NATO ministers was set to take place.

The national railway company expected half the trains nation-wide would be cancelled because of the movement, but high-speed train traffic to London and Paris should be mostly spared.

The air traffic control agency, Skeyes, announced on Tuesday that it would not allow any flights to or from the country because it could not determine with certainty which employees would come to work.

READ ALSO: French ‘Yellow Vest’ Boxer Faces Trial For Assaulting Police

No aircraft flying below 8,000 metres altitude would be allowed to fly over the country, the agency warned.

Skeyes was not able to say how many flights or how many passengers would be affected.

Unions are calling for higher wages, putting pressure on the right-of-centre government ahead of general elections in May.

Brussels, home to NATO, will be hosting a meeting of defence ministers that day, with officials from throughout the transatlantic military alliance converging on the city.

“We have no indication of any impact of the strike on the meeting,” a NATO official told AFP.

Charleroi airport, the second largest in Belgium and a local hub for low-cost giant Ryanair, had already announced its closure.

Belgium’s Brussels Airlines has cancelled all its 222 flights.

The German carrier TUI fly will operate its scheduled Belgian flights from the nearest French and Dutch airports.

AFP

More Suspects Detained In Belgium Football Scandal

Federal magistrate Wenke Roggen (L) and Federal magistrate Eric Van Duyse speak during a press conference at the Federaal Parket in Brussels on October 11, 2018, as football clubs are investigated over alleged fraudulent transfers and match-fixing.  HATIM KAGHAT / BELGA / AFP

 

Three players’ agents, a referee, and a former lawyer were charged and detained in Belgium on Friday as a massive football fraud and match-fixing scandal widened.

Mogi Bayat, portrayed in the media as Belgium’s most powerful sports agent, was charged with “money laundering,” his lawyers said after he appeared before a judge.

Bayat was detained pending his next hearing, as were fellow agents Dejan Veljkovic and Karim Mejjati, who were questioned this week as part of the operation targeting Belgium’s football elite.

Former Anderlecht club lawyer Laurent Denis and referee Bart Vertenten were also charged and arrested overnight, according to the Belga news agency.

On Thursday, another referee, Sebastien Delferiere, was charged but was immediately released on parole.

Vertenten and Delferiere were suspended on Thursday with immediate effect by the Belgian Football Federation.

The charges against referees are part of a probe into suspected match-fixing by Veljkovic in a failed effort to save formerly top-tier KV Mechelen from relegation to the second division.

On Thursday, the judge charged five people in the match-fixing case, including the club’s financial director.

Hearings before the judge were held throughout the night.

At this stage, at least 17 suspects have been charged, according to French-language RTBF.

A total of 29 suspects were interrogated on Wednesday, the federal prosecutor’s office said on Thursday.

Several, including former Anderlecht boss Herman Van Holsbeeck, were released without charges.

The operation led to a total of 60 police searches Wednesday, including the headquarters of leading clubs in the Belgian first division, with FC Bruges, Anderlecht, Standard Liege and Genk among them.

The huge operation took place simultaneously in Belgium and six other European countries, including France and Serbia, where an agent was arrested Thursday and awaits extradition.

AFP

Belgium Join France Atop FIFA Rankings

FILE Photo of Belgium Team

 

Belgium has joined world champions France as joint leaders of the FIFA world rankings released Thursday, the first time in the table’s 25-year history that top spot has been shared.

Belgium has notched up a pair of wins, including a victory over Iceland in the inaugural Nations League competition to bring them to level with the French, the team who beat them in the World Cup semi-finals.

The only other change in the top 10 sees Denmark (10th, down one place) slip below Spain (9th, unchanged).

Outside of the top ten, two Nations League wins for Ukraine (29th, up six) over Czech Republic (47th, down three) and Slovakia (26th, unchanged) means that they are the month’s biggest movers, while Germany (12th, up three) have started to edge back towards a single-figure ranking after their World Cup debacle.

FIFA world rankings as of September 20

1=. Belgium (+1)       1,729 pts

1=. France             1,729

3. Brazil              1,663

4. Croatia             1,634

5. Uruguay             1,632

6. England             1,612

7. Portugal            1,606

8. Switzerland         1,598

9. Spain               1,597

10. Denmark (-1)       1,581

AFP

Lukaku, Hazard Help Belgium Thrash Scotland 4-0

Belgium’s striker Romelu Lukaku (L) celebrates with Belgium’s midfielder Eden Hazard (C) and Belgium’s midfielder Thorgan Hazard after scoring the opening goal of the International friendly football match between Scotland and Belgium at Hampden Park in Glasgow, Scotland on September 7, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / Andy BUCHANAN

 

World Cup semi-finalists Belgium capitalised on a series of Scotland mistakes with goals from Romelu Lukaku, Eden Hazard and a Michy Batshuayi double to thrash the hosts 4-0 in a friendly at Hampden on Friday.

Roberto Martinez’s men showed their class and no hangover from their exertions in finishing third in Russia to warm-up for their Nations League opener against Iceland on Monday.

However, the visitors were handed a series of gifts by a Scotland side that slumped to a fourth defeat in five games since manager Alex McLeish was appointed for a second spell in charge.

The contrasting fortunes of the two nations were summed up by Belgium playing to a crowd less than that which celebrated their return from Russia in July at a barely half-full Hampden.

Martinez named a strong side with six of those that started the World Cup semi-final defeat to France in the starting line-up.

But it took a gift from Aston Villa’s John McGinn to get the visitors going when the midfielder was caught in possession on the edge of his own box and Mousa Dembele and Thorgan Hazard teed up Lukaku for his 41st international goal.

Hazard smashed home Belgium’s second a minute into the second half, but again McLeish might have been disappointed to see goalkeeper Craig Gordon beaten at his near post.

A truer test of McLeish’s ability to qualify Scotland for a first major tournament in over 20 years will come when Albania are the visitors to Hampden on Monday in the Nations League.

However, vast improvements will need to be made in possession as Valencia striker Batshuayi scored twice in eight minutes before the hour mark after pouncing on slack passes by Charlie Mulgrew and Ryan Jack.

Scotland did at least force Thibaut Courtois into a couple of late saves through Ryan Fraser and Steven Naismith, but the Real Madrid goalkeeper ensured there wasn’t even to be a consolation for the home side.

AFP