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Belgian police return migrants to France... and are arrested

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Belgian police return migrants to France... and are arrested
Photo: AFP
09:15 CEST+02:00
In a sign of how complicated the migrant crisis has become for European countries, Belgian police officers who were returning a group of migrants to France were then arrested by their French counterparts on suspicion of “aiding illegal immigration”.

All is not well on the frontiers of France.

While the migrant crisis has caused diplomatic tensions between the UK and France in Calais and France and Italy in the south east, there is now a potential spat building between Paris and Brussels.

On Tuesday two Belgian police officers who were in the in the process of returning a group of migrants over the border to France ended up being arrested.

They were held and asked to explain their actions.

It all began when a truck driver who had crossed from France heard noises coming from inside the vehicle's trailer.

He alerted the Belgian police who found 13 migrants from Syria and Iraq inside, who had been hoping to make it across the Channel to the UK, but had boarded a truck heading in the wrong direction.

Since Belgian re-established border checks with France last February police have regularly picked up migrants and driven them back to the border, but they are not actually supposed to cross into France.

On Tuesday the Belgian police got a little disorientated and actually crossed the border near Nieppe.

“Our colleagues did not notice they had passed the border by around 50 metres,” said a spokesman for a Belgian police union.

They were then picked up by French police and taken in for questioning which lasted four hours, according to reports.

Although it is understood no action will be taken, the decision of the French police to haul in the Belgian counterparts has caused anger.

“When you think that they spent four hours without a lawyer and without an interpreter, it should have been noted that these are Flemish officers, because in Belgium we speak three languages. Plus we did not have the copy of the statement imposed on them,” said the Belgian police union spokesman.

Georges Aeck, the police chief of the Belgian town of Ypres, told local media that the migrants, including three children were escorted to the border because we did not want to leave them here, by the roadside and let them walk to the border on foot.”

For their part French authorities have been left a little red faced and insisted the actions of their police officers does not represent general policy and practices between the two countries.

A police spokesman for France's northern department of Nord said: “Talks are continuing between the authorities of both countries to continue good relations and cooperation, particularly in the area of immigration.”

France's interior minister reportedly called his Belgian counterpart on Tuesday evening, but it is believed the minister also made it clear he was unhappy about Belgium advising their police to return migrants to the border.

This diplomatic incident may not quite have run its course.

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