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    Moderator Beezer's Avatar
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    Belgian crackdown cut number of migrants heading to Britain to fewer than 1,000

    Belgian crackdown cut number of migrants heading to Britain to fewer than 1,000

    Charles Hymas
    Fri, August 18, 2023 at 10:16 AM EDT·3 min read


    Belgian police intercepted 12,800 migrants in 2018 but only 944 last year - Pascal Rossignol/Reuters

    The number of migrants setting off for Britain from Belgium fell by 90 per cent to fewer than 1,000 after its government launched a crackdown, including stopping them at sea, it has emerged.

    Belgian ministers have revealed that the stricter measures led to the number of “transiting” migrants intercepted by police falling from 12,800 in 2018 to 944 last year.

    Unlike the French, the Belgians intercept at sea, while other measures include increased police checks and tougher penalties for people smugglers.

    The Belgian government also changed the law to allow officials to seize migrants’ phones and extract the data to help identify the people smugglers.

    Britain has introduced similar legislative measures including life sentences for people smuggling.

    Yesterday, the Telegraph revealed that
    the French are intercepting fewer Channel crossings than last year
    despite a £480 million deal under which Britain pays for more patrols.
    Official figures show that 17,032, or 45.2 per cent, of 30,418 migrants have been stopped from making the crossing by French beach patrols since January, marginally down from the 45.8 per cent over the same period last year.

    Fewer migrants have crossed this year, partly because of poor weather.

    Policy of not intervening

    British ministers are privately frustrated that the French are not doing more to stop boats carrying migrants in contrast with the Belgian interventions that have succeeded in blocking crossings from its shores.

    Once the boats have left the beaches, the French maintain a policy of not intervening in the water unless a dinghy is in distress and the migrants are believed to be likely to cooperate.

    It has resulted in French navy patrol vessels shadowing or escorting boats to British waters in the middle of the Channel because of migrants’ refusal to be rescued by the French and the risks if their officers tried to do so.

    “That is a different policy to Belgium for example, which does intervene in the water, manages to do so safely and has largely ended small boat crossings from its shores,” said a source.

    Earlier this year, Vincent Van Quickenborne, the justice minister of Belgium, also said the law change on smartphones had been critical.

    “Two years ago, we set up the TransIT team to systematically analyse mobile phone data in the search for the networks behind the smuggling,” he said.

    Joint patrols resisted

    Britain’s focus on stopping the boats has been on France because most set off from its northern coast. In March, Rishi Sunak, the Prime Minister, struck a three-year £480 million deal with the French to double the number of officers patrolling the beaches to 800, and create a joint command centre and a detention centre to prevent migrants leaving France.

    But the French have resisted joint patrols that could turn back boats at sea and only allowed Border Force officers to act as observers.

    However, Sylvie Bermann, who was the French ambassador to Britain between 2014 and 2017, said she was “not personally against” joint UK-French patrols as a way to tackle the Channel migrant crisis.

    Last edited by Beezer; 08-22-2023 at 02:36 PM.


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