Belgium has increased border controls with France as the government fears that thousands of dislodged Calais Jungle residents bound for Britain will choose to establish their new home on the Belgian coast instead.
As refugees and charities await the verdict of a French judge on whether half of the refugee camp in Calais will be destroyed, Belgium is preparing for a sudden increase in the number of refugees crossing into the country.
Belgium authorities deployed over 250 police officers along its border with France on Tuesday, focusing on the near the coast as well as the port of Zeebrugge, Reuters reports.
“We already see movement of migrants from Calais towards our country,” Belgian Interior Minister Jan Jambon told a press conference in Brussels. “Once the camps in France are cleared we could potentially see thousands.”
Charities working in the Calais Jungle have legally challenged the French government’s plan to destroy the southern part of the camp, which houses around 3,500 people.
A French judge in Lille was set to rule on Tuesday afternoon as to whether the destruction of the camp was lawful, but the decision has now been postponed to Wednesday or Thursday.
Clare Moseley, from the association Care4Calais, who was at the hearing, told Business Insider that the judge said that “due to the amount of evidence submitted by both sides she is not going to give a decision today. It is therefore legally possible that the prefecture could go ahead with the bulldozing tomorrow however this would not be good form.”
Moseley said the charities and refugees are hoping that the prefecture in Calais will wait for the outcome of the case before they start destroying the camp.
“If they go ahead with the bulldozing it will be a terrible waste. Over the last six months an army of volunteers have spent thousands of pounds and thousands of hours building shelters, community space, medical facilities, and schools. This will all be wasted,” Moseley said.
Moseley confirmed that some refugees had already started to move from the southern part of the camp as they fear the decision will not rule in their favour. They are moving to smaller camps in villages around Calais and also to the camp near Dunkirk.
“It is likely this will now rapidly increase. Refugees will not stop coming to Calais,” Moseley added.
Authorities near the Belgian coast intercepted 950 Britain-bound migrants in January, the provincial governor of West Flanders said, according to Reuters
Migrants caught by the police checks in Belgium are told to immediately leave the country.
“Belgium is not closing its borders, that’s not what this is about, we are making targeted checks against a specific phenomenon,” Jambon said.
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