Jungle gets reprieve as Belgian scraps Schengen

Jungle gets reprieve as Belgian scraps Schengen

Migrants in Calais. Source: Flickr

Belgium has temporarily suspended its Schengen border with France as it prepares for a possible wave of refugees from the south. The measures come as France is considering bulldozing Calais’s notorious “jungle” settlement.

Belgian home minister Jan Jambon said the border measure was in response to a potential influx wave of migrants leaving the compound in the northern port city of Calais.

“We have informed the European Commission that we will temporarily depart from Schengen rules,” he said in Brussels. It is the latest blow to Europe’s 26-nation borderless zone. The minister said there would be between 250 and 290 police officers posted along the Belgian border. “We will carry out border controls at different strategic locations, at spots used by smugglers which the police have detected. We want to avoid tent camps like Calais in Belgium at all costs. It’s a question of maintaining order,” Jambon said.

Around 4,000 migrants live in the settlement which is at the centre of Europe’s refugee crisis. Belgium fears migrants trying to use their country as a means to reach Britain, mostly through the port of Zeebrugge.

Meanwhile, a French court in Lille has postponed a ruling on the demolition of half the “jungle”. Tensions were rising in the camp where many residents were refusing to leave by the evacuation deadline. Charities working in the jungle had challenged the eviction order in the Lille court.

No ruling will be made until later this week as the court began hearing evidence from 250 migrants and 10 NGOs. Activists condemned the evacuation as “bungled”. The jungle has also played into the UK debate about Britain’s June 23 referendum on a possible European Union exit.

Some pro-EU campaigners say the UK would lose the ability to call on France to stop the flow of refugees clinging to lorries and smuggling on to ferries in Calais if Britain left the bloc. The migrants in Calais form a tiny fraction of those fleeing West Asia and Africa with many trying to reach Britain because they have family or community ties or because of the language.

“I don’t have anywhere else to go,” said John, 28, from Sudan. “We don’t want to leave Calais because we don’t want to get further away from England, which is still our goal.” There is debate over the population of the camp which developed on a former toxic-waste dump.

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