By Tijs De Geyndt
Commotion yesterday as a recording surfaced in which party leader Bart De Wever (NV-A) explains to his members how he, in his position as Mayor of Antwerp, works together with the Secretary of Asylum and Migration Theo Francken, a party mate, to organize “targeted razzias’ in Antwerp.
Recalling the contact with Francken he said: “How much room do you have for us? How many can you put away? Where does your next plane fly to? (laughter in the room, TDG). You can laugh about it, but that’s how it is. Then we arrest people until the cell is full, preferably with the nationality of the destination of Air Francken “. He also refers to the flights as ‘Con Air’ referring to the Nicolas Cage’ movie about a flight with convicts on board.
The recordings date back to 2016 when NV-A was still part of the Federal Government and Theo Francken still Secretary of Migration. Although the publication of the content didn’t pick up broader attention back then it’s different now, less than five days before elections.
Other parties and NGO’s condemn “the roughness” of the discourse used by De Wever. The latter doesn’t regret his choice of words, “I don’t see the problem. We’re talking about dealers, traffickers and pimps. That these people belong in prison and afterwards need to be put on a plane a soon as possible to their home is something I don’t regret for one word.” Analysts suggest that the sudden attention for this harsher language might even be positive given the rise of the Far Right in the polls. But it might also leave possible voters closer to the centre to change their mind.