• France's news in English
 
app_header_v3
France blasts Belgium's move to reopen border controls
Belgian police at the French border this week. Photo: AFP

France blasts Belgium's move to reopen border controls

AFP · 25 Feb 2016, 10:38

Published: 25 Feb 2016 08:35 GMT+01:00
Updated: 25 Feb 2016 10:38 GMT+01:00

A huge operation involving around 300 police officers, a helicopter and mounted police was set up to monitor three border crossings and surrounding sand dunes in the De Panne region bordering France.
   
"Currently over the past 24 hours we have prevented 80 people, mainly Afghans, from coming into Belgium," police spokesman Peter Dewaele told a press conference at De Panne.
   
"A further 25 people -- Syrians, Iranians and Afghans -- have been intercepted on Belgian territory. After having been interrogated by the Foreigners' Office, they were immediately driven back to the French border."
 
But the move was questioned by French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve on Thursday.
   
"This decision is a strange one, just as is its motivation," Cazeneuve said as he arrived for talks with his EU counterparts as the migrant crisis deepens.
   
A French court on Tuesday postponed a ruling on the demolition of half the "Jungle" refugee camp in Calais, a northern French port city near the Channel Tunnel rail link which leads to Britain.
   
But Belgian Interior Minister Jan Jambon announced on Tuesday that his country was reintroducing border controls with France, becoming the latest to do so in the EU's Schengen passport-free travel area.
   
Jambon said most of the migrants currently in Calais, a port in northern France, eventually wanted to get to Britain and failing that, would use Belgium as a transit route via the port of Zeebrugge.
   
"We want to avoid at all cost Calais-style tent camps in Belgium. It's a question of keeping order," said Jambon, adding that authorities wanted to avoid all economic impact on Zeebrugge and on the Belgian coast.
 
'People with backpacks' 
 
However a number of migrants have already gathered at Zeebrugge in recent weeks, and Belgian police stepped up patrols there on Wednesday.
   
Nicholas Paelinck, head of the police in Belgian's western coastal region, said the migrants were trying to travel dozens of miles (kilometres) on "smugglers vehicles" -- or by simply taking bus, trains or trams.
   
On the main road to the French town of Dunkirk, eight miles to the west, two Belgian police checkpoints were set up on each side of the carriageway early on Wednesday, AFP journalists said.
   
Three police officers stopped each vehicle and inspected trunks and cargo areas before letting them enter Belgium.
   
Story continues below…
Less than a mile away on another road from France there was a similar checkpoint, while police on horseback patrolled the area in between.
   
"It's more to reassure people than anything else. If migrants want to come, we won't stop them," said Dominique, a 55-year-old bathroom installer from France, who said he had come to eat and buy cigarettes in Belgium.
   
Police said the operation would last as long as necessary, noting a huge increase in the number of migrants in the space of a year.
   
In January 2015 133 people were detained for not having the right papers but one year on that figure was 950, a spokesman said.
   
"We are seeing more and more people with backpacks. It's a sign that they are not planning to return to France," said Dewaele.
Today's headlines
Paris banking district stages France's latest mock attack
Photo: AFP

The La Defense business district in Paris was the scene of the latest mock terror attack last night, as French authorities continue to take no chances.

French cows die after eating all winter stock in one night
File photo: AFP

Half a herd of cows ate themselves to death on cereals.

Grape thieves pilfer what's left of Burgundy wine harvests
Photo: AFP

Fed up with seeing thieves pilfer their precious grapes, vineyard owners in the famous region of Burgundy are taking extreme measures for the first time.

France to clamp down on rip-off home repair workers
All photos: AFP

Ever feel you've been ripped off by a plumber, electrician, or locksmith in France?

'Rogues' go on trial for ripping shirts of Air France bosses
Photo: AFP

A court in France will decide whether ripping the shirt off your boss's back is all part and parcel of a French labour dispute.

Hollande dealt major blow as jobless rate shoots up
Photo: AFP

The news could dissuade President François Hollande from even running for re-election.

Aussie TV show accused of staging French burkini row
Photo: Channel 7 screengrab

Was an Australian TV report about France's burkini ban a set up to portray the French as "anti-Muslim"?

Five ways Paris is better than it was 15 years ago
All photos: AFP

Here's how one man says Paris has changed for the better over his last 15 years in the city.

Man in 60s wounds two in France supermarket shooting
Photo: AFP

A police SWAT team has surrounded gunman's apartment.

Paris makes 'history' by banning cars on river bank

The French capital is going green with a vengeance.

Sponsored Article
Why Jordan is the ‘Different’ East
Features
Room for improvement: Paris's matchbox apartments
'Stop telling immigrants to be French and help it happen'
Society
Take the test: How far have you assimilated into French culture?
Lifestyle
Eleven things you should know before moving to Paris
National
France's Marion Cotillard rebuffs rumours of fling with Brad Pitt
National
Eight arrested over links to Nice truck attacker
Features
Why everyone should party in a French chateau at least once
Travel
The Frenchman who hated 'Nazi-Zealand' after four-day hitch-hike fail
Culture
What's on: Ten exciting events across France in September
The 45-million year old underground shells that flavour Champagne
Features
French job speak: All the terms you need to know
'Resilient' Paris now a more appealing city than New York
National
France says it's OK to warn drivers about speed cameras
Meet Honorine, 113, the oldest person in France
Education
Grenoble named France's best city to be a student
Society
New Metro map reveals cheapest pints of beer in Paris
Business & Money
How reliant is the French economy on Paris?
Society
Here's why Parisians want to move to Bordeaux
And the 'best place to spend a weekend in Europe' is… Lyon
Analysis & Opinion
'Muslims in France must be considered ordinary citizens'
Armed guards to ride French trains from October
National
France among Europe's priciest for train travel
National
Paris set to make river bank car-free for six-month trial
2,725
jobs available