Migrants determined to get into Britain are abandoning the camps at Calais and Dunkirk and making for the small port town of Zeebrugge in Belgium, where security has not yet been beefed up. The rapid influx of migrants to the area has many locals alarmed, as they fear social unrest of the sort recently witnessed in Calais.
Calais is currently on the front line of the European migrant crisis thanks to the 7,000 migrants camped out at The Jungle on the outskirts of town, not to mention the hundreds of far left activists who have flocked to the area.
Over the past few weeks the town has played host to both a day of demonstrations by the far left which ended with violent clashes between migrants, activists and townsfolk, and an opposing PEGIDA rally which saw a prominent Foreign Legion General arrested and detained for 48 hours.
Breitbart London reported in December on the more than 2,000 migrants who have already taken up residence in nearby Dunkirk as an alternative venue; now the people of the sleepy port town of Zeebrugge fear the same fate awaits them, as the port runs services to Hull on England’s east coast. Although services between the ports aren’t as frequent as the Calais to Dover line, security around the port has not yet been reinforced to the same level as in Calais, leaving the port vulnerable.
And as the French authorities move to evict half of the migrants currently camped out at The Jungle, many are seeking to exploit Zeebrugge as an alternate venue to stage their bid to reach the UK.
62 migrants were arrested in December last year by the Belgian police after setting up camps outside the port town. A police spokesman confirmed that the majority were Iranian, and were “trying to get into Zeebrugge port to travel to Britain” by smuggling themselves in lorries, the Express has reported.
Since then, however, the numbers have only grown: in the six weeks since the beginning of January, Belgian authorities have stopped some 890 migrants without residency papers, 450 of whom were en-route to Zeebrugge with the intention of crossing into the UK.
A source at Zeebrugge Port said reinforcements must be put in place, and soon, if the border is to be secured: “Belgian authorities must improve and enhance security at the port in the next few months as a matter of urgency,” they said.
“It is also of vital importance that the UK government supports Belgian authorities in securing the port.”
Meanwhile the authorities have been cracking down by detaining those without papers and placing a ban on setting up tents in the area. “I cannot tolerate camps with makeshift tents being set up in Zeebrugge like in Calais,” Belgium’s interior minister Jan Jambon said during a summit with France.
His comments were supported by Renaat Landuyt, the mayor of nearby Bruges, who said that the migrants currently at the port were the “first group” to try their luck there, but warned many more could follow. “The message is: Belgium is not France,” he has reiterated.
The migrants have responded by simply sleeping among the dunes, mere feet away from port traffic.
Carl Decaluwé, the governor of West Flanders earlier this month when he warned charities not to hand out food, saying: “Don’t feed refugees, otherwise more will come.”
His comments sparked outrage, but he has stood by them, insisting that smuggling rings are exploiting the hospitality of the charities for their own money-making ends.
“We think most of them have come from camps in Calais and Dunkirk, but now there is also a network of traffickers in Germany,” he said.
“There is clearly a system behind this. [Migrants] are being dropped off in Germany in buses or trains and are then heading for the north of France and Zeebrugge.
“We can’t tolerate traffickers abusing the work of our volunteers.”
But Belgian charity workers have responded that the migrants only want to make their way into the UK. “[Migrants] don’t want to wander around Zeebrugge. They don’t want a new Calais on the Belgian coast,” a spokesman for the charity Ciré said.
“They want to reach Great Britain…These migrants should be able to join their loved ones and claim asylum in the UK.”