Belgian police fire tear gas, water cannons at anti-immigration protesters in Brussels

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Posted

December 17, 2018 08:37:59

Belgian police have fired tear gas and aimed water cannons at anti-immigrant demonstrators who gathered on Sunday outside the European Union (EU) headquarters in Brussels in protest against a new United Nations (UN) migration pact.

Key points:

  • The United Nations pact was signed in Morocco last week and is aimed at fostering cooperation on migration
  • Police said 5,500 people marched in a protest organised by Flemish right-wing parties critical of the agreement
  • A smaller counter-demonstration of around 1,000 people was organised by left-wing groups

Thousands of people marched against the UN agreement aimed at fostering cooperation on migration, eclipsing a smaller demonstration in support of the deal, the signing of which brought down Belgium’s government last week.

Police said some 5,500 people marched in the bigger protest against the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration, organised by Flemish right-wing parties in the part of the capital where main European Union institutions are located.

A separate counter-demonstration of around 1,000 people, organised by left-wing groups and non-governmental organisations, took place at the same time in Brussels city centre.

The Belgian right-wing New Flemish Alliance (N-VA), which is the biggest party in Parliament, pulled its ministers from the ruling coalition last week after Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel refused its demand that he not sign the UN migration compact in Marrakesh.

Mr Michel had secured a large parliamentary majority in favour of maintaining Belgium’s support of the UN text, with support from the opposition socialists and greens.

Critics said the N-VA’s move was the opening shot in a campaign before federal elections in May.

The UN pact was agreed in July by all 193 UN members except the United States, but only 164 formally signed it at the meeting last Monday.

It has run into criticism from European politicians who say it could increase immigration to Europe as the bloc has turned increasingly restrictive on accepting refugees and migrants alike since a 2015 spike in arrivals.

Ten countries, mostly in formerly Communist Eastern Europe, have pulled out of the non-binding pact.

With a record 21.3 million refugees globally, the UN began work on the pact after more than one million people arrived in Europe in 2015, many fleeing civil war in Syria and poverty in Africa.

ABC/Reuters

Topics:

community-and-society,

government-and-politics,

refugees,

world-politics,

immigration,

belgium,

european-union



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