Saturday

18th Nov 2017

Calais camp situation prompts Belgian border controls

  • French authorities want to clear part of the Jungle camp this week (Photo: Eszter Zalan)

Belgium is ramping up controls on its border with France in response to the French authorities' attempts to clear a huge migrant camp near the port of Calais.

Border checks were reintroduced earlier this week, will be enforced fully from Wednesday (24 February) with 250 to 290 policemen and "will last as long as necessary", interior minister Jan Jambon said on Tuesday.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

"We are going to guard the border in strategic places, in places used by smugglers, which the police have detected," he said.

Belgium's decision comes as a giant migrant camp near Calais, about 60 km from the border, could be partly dismantled in the coming days.

"When the camps in France are evacuated, we could face an influx of several thousand people," Jambon said.

"We must avoid any economic impact on the [North Sea] coast and the Zeebrugge port," he added, referring to seaside resorts and a cargo and ferry terminal on Belgium's coast.

French authorities wanted to evacuate part of the Calais camp, known as the Jungle, where at least 3,700 people live, by Tuesday evening.

But an administrative court suspended the decision until the judges decide whether the evacuation would constitute a "violation of human rights". Their ruling is expected on Wednesday or Thursday.

Refugee rights groups argue that expelling migrants from the camp would make them more vulnerable and would leave many children on their own.

According to the France Terre d'Asile NGO, 326 isolated minors live in the camp. One in four is less than 15 and the youngest is thought to be 7.

French prime minister Manuel Valls justified the planned evacuation saying the migrants lived in "terrible conditions".

"We cannot accept that a slum continues to be erected like that at the gates of Calais," he told RTL radio on Tuesday.

In January, after France's highest administrative court summoned the authorities to improve sanitary conditions in the Calais camp, giant heaters were installed on a piece of land nearby.

Meanwhile, water and electricity were installed in another camp near Dunkirk, halfway between Calais and the Belgian border, where around 3,000 people lived in unsanitary conditions.

Migrants coming from Calais to Belgium is not a recent phenomenon. Last summer, EUobserver reported of migrants using the tram going along the Belgian coast from the French border, trying to take small jobs and crossing to the UK.

The degradation of the situation in the Calais and Dunkirk camps prompted the Belgian prime minister Charles Michel to write to Valls in January. "The aim is to get concrete commitments from France on humanitarian but also security aspects," he told MPs at the time.

On Tuesday, as his government announced the establishment of border checks, Michel said he had "no intention of letting legal black holes [zones de non-droit] develop in Belgium".

French migrant camps to get upgrade

A new camp with heated tents will be built near Dunkirk as house containers are made available in Calais, where thousands of migrants headed for the UK are stranded.

UN criticises EU policy in Libya as 'inhuman'

The EU's policy of helping the Libyan coast guard to return people plucked from the sea is "inhuman", says the UN's human rights chief, given that most end up in dire conditions.

News in Brief

  1. Bonn climate talks extend into Friday evening
  2. UK needs to move on Brexit by early December, Tusk says
  3. Puigdemont extradition decision postponed to December
  4. Ireland wants written UK guarantees to avoid hard border
  5. US did not obstruct climate talks, says German minister
  6. EU signs social declaration
  7. Puigdemont to be heard by Belgian judges
  8. Steep fall in migrants reaching EU

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Jewish CongressAntisemitism in Europe Today: Is It Still a Threat to Free and Open Society?
  2. Counter BalanceNew Report: Juncker Plan Backs Billions in Fossil Fuels and Carbon-Heavy Infrastructure
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic countries prioritise fossil fuel subsidy reform
  4. Mission of China to the EUNew era for China brings new opportunities to all
  5. ACCASmall and Medium Sized Practices Must 'Offer the Whole Package'
  6. UNICEFAhead of the African Union - EU Summit, Survey Highlights Impact of Conflict on Education
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council Calls for Closer Co-Operation on Foreign Policy
  8. Swedish EnterprisesTrilogue Negotiations - Striking the Balance Between Transparency and Efficiency
  9. Access EuropeProspects for US-EU Relations Under the Trump Administration - 28 November 2017
  10. World Vision20 November: Exchange of Views at the EP on Children Affected by the Syria Crisis
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersSustainable Growth the Nordic Way: Climate Solutions for a Sustainable Future
  12. EU2017EEHow Data Fuels Estonia's Economy

Latest News

  1. EU keeps former Soviet states at arm's length
  2. EU leaders make pledge on social issues after populist backlash
  3. EU agencies and eastern neighbours This WEEK
  4. Germany slams Dutch call for more ambitious EU climate goal
  5. Mind the gap: inequality in our cities
  6. Climate activists 'disappointed' with EU at climate talks
  7. Davis outlines UK vision on Brexit in Berlin
  8. German coalition talks in near collapse