UKIP deputy leader Mike Hookem MEP has slammed Belgium authorities for “coming cap in hand” to the UK Government, as part of an effort to stem the tide of people-smuggling through its ports.
Speaking from Strasbourg, Mr Hookem said: “while reports state that the Belgium Interior Minister is coming to London to ‘amongst other things,’ tackle border controls in Zeebrugge together with the English; you can bet that means they want UK taxpayer funding for increased security!”
Mr Hookem’s comments came after local media [Ed: see note below] revealed an on-going police operation against people smuggling, which saw the arrest of ninety-seven illegal migrants in and around the major Belgium port of Zeebrugge.
Mr Hookem – a Yorkshire and North Lincolnshire MEP – visited Zeebrugge while examining the migrant crisis in 2016, and found over 30 illegal migrants hiding in a church just 200 yards from the port entrance. The Belgium port runs ferry services to Hull and freight services Immingham; both on the River Humber and both in Mr Hookem’s constituency.
Speaking just a week after media reports of increased migrant attacks on HGV’s in the Normandy town of Ouistreham, France, Mr Hookem said:
It would seem our ‘European partners’ are once again trying to use the UK as a cash-cow to fight a migrant problem of the EU’s making.
Calais was virtually fortified at the expense of UK taxpayers, and it would seem Belgium would like us to do the same for them. The simple fact is, the UK cannot keep paying for a problem that is the responsibility of various authorities on the continent and the EU.
There will be no resolution to the migrant crisis until the free movement of people is abolished.
It was evident in 2016 when I visited that Zeebrugge had a growing issue with people smuggling; a view reinforced after I spoke with twenty-five Afghan migrants holed up in a church just yards from the port gates, all of whom were hoping to get to England.
The UK is seen as the promised land by migrants, and in my experience, many officials on the continent were happy to wash their hands of the issue and pass them along to us.
In the two and a half years since my visit, Belgium seems to have done nothing to combat the issue. The migrant crisis is an EU-wide issue that demands an EU wide solution; yet, the European Commission and Council continue to sit on their hands and do nothing.
I warned in 2016 that Zeebrugge was facing a crisis after a port worker told me of thousands of incursions into the port by migrants each year and millions of Euros worth of damage. Those warnings continue to be ignored.
While I welcome the belated Belgium action to tackle the migrant problem in its ports, the UK can no longer keep paying for an issue not of its own making, especially at a time when our border forces are severely under-funded and resourced.
It is now time for the EU to set up and take responsibility for its crazy policies; put an end to free movements and take steps to tackle the migrant crisis at source, rather than on the borders and in the sea lanes of Northern Europe.”
Translation (via Google):
The police in West Flanders have picked up 97 transmigrants tonight in a large-scale operation, including in the port of Zeebrugge and on highway car parks. That is what Governor Carl Decaluwé said in The Morning on Radio 1. The transmigrants would have been on their way to England. It would be people from different nationalities, from Syria to Iraq.
The governor – who called the action one of the largest in the province – spoke to some of the transmigrants himself. “We used all the resources that we have available this night,” he says. “Our main concern was image formation. How do the smugglers move and where are the transmigrants?”
He also said that the police want to continue their fight against human smugglers and make life as difficult as possible. “There will certainly be unannounced actions. Unannounced because people smugglers are fairly quickly informed, as it turns out. The next time it is intended that the arrested refugees be taken to Steenokkerzeel, to the handling center. I noticed myself tonight how labor-intensive that handling is. With the new center, the local police services will certainly be relieved, “says the governor.
Minister of the Interior Jan Jambon and Secretary of State for Asylum and Migration Theo Francken are currently going to London to discuss the problem of transmigrants. They want the help of the British to tackle the problem.
“Among other things, we want to tackle the border controls in Zeebrugge together with the English and set up launch campaigns. Refugees must know that trying to travel to England does not make sense “, says Jambon.