Tighter border controls announced last month by Belgium’s Minister of the Interior have come under attack for their feeble application. It has transpired that illegal immigrants need only wait until late afternoon or the weekend to cross the border to get through Belgium’s ring of steel.
It was trumpeted as a major initiative last month when Belgium’s Minister of the Interior announced his country would be introducing tighter border controls. Jan Jambon introduced the stricter regulations in response to the ongoing crisis in Europe caused by migrants from the Middle East and Africa.
Belgium was not alone – Germany, Austria, Hungary, and Slovenia all took measures to secure their borders and slow the flow of migrants too.
More rigorous border enforcement was just one part of wider moves which included further checks within Belgium itself, focusing on transport hubs and arteries like airports and rail lines. The aim is to use spot checks to identify and register illegal immigrants to help counter human trafficking operations.
Jambon has spoken about stricter border checks since soon after January’s Charlie Hebdo massacre in Paris, as reported by Flanders News. Back then, declaring that “the chain is as strong as the weakest link” he explained:
“We have to ensure that these checks really happen. At the European level we are above all trying to ensure that people possess the right equipment, databases, etc. However, if the guy in the glass box who is supposed to check passports isn’t alert enough and allows people through just like that, then that’s an enormous hole in the network.”
It seems the “guy in the glass box” cannot be relied upon, however, and the chain Jambon spoke of is fundamentally weakened by the “enormous hole in the network” that is the Belgium Border Patrol Staff Rota.
Only eight officers guard the 125 mile border between Eastern Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany and, as Belgian newspaper Het Nieuwsblad reports, they only work between 8.45am to 11.15am then after lunch from 1 pm to 5.30pm and not at all at weekends.
A local police union official said there was “little point” to the checks, describing the operation as something similar to “putting a band aid on a broken limb”, reports The Daily Express, but Jambon’s office asked for patience. A spokesman pointed out that it is not merely the eastern border that is being covered, and said:
“This is just the beginning. We will evaluate the checks next week, and adjust them if necessary.”