France and Belgium at odds in English Channel migration row

Brussels rejects accusation that it is failing to do enough at border to stop migrants entering France

Belgium has hit back at France in a dispute over migration after Paris accused its neighbour of failing to police their shared border.

French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said half of all migrants crossing France in the hope of reaching Britain had entered the country via Belgium.

He said France had increased border patrols and was “asking our Belgian friends to do the same work from their side”.

Responding to Mr Darmanin, his Belgian counterpart Annelies Verlinden rejected the suggestion that her country was doing too little.

“Just saying that neighbouring countries are responsible for a situation is not the solution,” she told broadcaster VRT.

“I don’t think that countries gain anything by pointing the finger of blame at each other or by looking for a guilty party.”

France says its increased checks led to 4,000 migrants and 180 human traffickers being arrested in September.

He said the number of arrests was double that of previous figures after local prefects were told to reinforce patrols.

France and Britain want to curb the numbers of people crossing the English Channel but Paris says the UK has not paid its bills under a deal struck in July.

More than 15,000 people attempted to cross the Channel in the first eight months of this year, up 50 per cent from the number in the whole of 2020, according to French coastguard statistics.

Mr Darmanin said on a visit to northern France that “not one euro has been paid” of a promised £54 million ($73.3m) package for French police.

Damian Hinds, a minister at the UK's Home Office, said the money was being held up by administrative delays rather than political brinkmanship.

But he said he wanted more migrants to be turned back and told to seek asylum in France. “France is a safe country,” he told the BBC.

Updated: October 12th 2021, 9:35 AM