Belgium beefs up border security amid fears evicted Calais migrants could move in


Belgium has beefed up security at its border with northern France as authorities push ahead with the demolition of the notorious Calais jungle.

The move comes after revealed that increasing numbers of migrants were heading to the Belgian port of Zeebrugge to make their bids for Britain. 

The sudden influx of migrants to Zeebrugge has sparked fears the town is becoming a new magnet for refugees wanting to reach the UK, with politicians warning the Belgian coast could become a “second Calais”.

Carl Decaluwé, governor of West Flanders, said the government feared the eviction of migrants from Calais could spark a movement of refugees towards the port town, which runs a P&O ferry route to Hull. 

The politician, who sparked controversy after telling locals to not feed refugees sleeping rough in the Belgian town, said: “I am expecting some [of the migrants] to head to Zeebrugge to try their luck and make a second attempt at reaching the UK.

“We must try to control who crosses the border. Those who cannot present the necessary documents must be stopped.”

Mr Decaluwé said security checks were launched on Tuesday morning by the seaside town De Panne, which borders France and is near the North Sea. 

Tensions have been mounting in Belgium over the spike of migrants settling in Zeebrugge, with a refugee charity calling for the government to “put pressure on the UK” to open its borders to stop “another Calais” from springing up in Belgian town.

Belgian interior minister Jan Jambon has vowed to take a tough stance against the arrival of migrants, saying he “could not tolerate” refugees “setting up shanty towns like in Calais”. 

In January Belgian authorities arrested nearly 1,000 migrants trying their luck in Zeebrugge – compared to just 133 in the same month last year. 

One Belgian minister vowed the government do “everything within its power to prevent camps like Calais forming in Belgium”.

Mr Jambon is expected to hold talks today about the enforced security measures on the border with France.

A source at Zeebrugge port told the comparatively weak security at the port could make it a soft target in comparison with Calais and Dunkirk which are home to around 8,000 migrants. 

Belgian prime minister Charles Michel is said to have sent a letter to his French counterpart Manuel Valls asking the French government to enforce stricter measures in Calais and Dunkirk which are putting pressure on several towns on the Belgian coast. 

French authorities have given refugees in the Calais jungle until 8pm on Tuesday to clear out of the shanty town before the bulldozers move in.

The jungle residents will be forced to move into alternative accommodation provided by the French government or head to another camp unless a last-minute court ruling by charities goes in their favour.

A Home Office spokeswoman confirmed the UK border force was not contributing to efforts and that the eviction operation was being carried out “entirely [by] French authorities”. 

A group of 18 migrants were found in the back of a lorry in Hull earlier this month after smuggling themselves onto a ferry from the Netherlands.

More than 1,000 migrants are being evicted from the south part of the Calais jungle before French authorities start to demolish the shanty town on Wednesday.