UK borders reach Brussels
15 April 2004, BRUSSELS - Fully-empowered British customs officers are to control passenger access to London-bound Eurostars in Brussels under a bilateral agreement announced Thursday which effectively extends UK borders to Belgium.
15 April 2004
BRUSSELS - Fully-empowered British customs officers are to control passenger access to London-bound Eurostars in Brussels under a bilateral agreement announced Thursday which effectively extends UK borders to Belgium.
British immigration officers will begin checking passengers boarding the trains at the Brussels-Midi station later this summer and will be able to refuse passage if they decide travel documents are invalid.
The agreement, signed in London between Belgian Interior Minister Patrick Dewael and his British counterpart David Blukett, is aimed at reducing the number of illegal immigrants currently entering the UK from Belgium.
British customs officers have been present in an advisory capacity alongside Belgian colleagues at the Brussels Eurostar terminal since April 2003, while ferry passengers and vehicles leaving Belgian cross-Channel ports of Ostend and Zeebrugge are the object of strict checks, including the use of high-tech instruments to detect stowayays.
"All of this adds up to a further reinforcement of the border controls, the restrictions, the ability to pick up people who shouldn't be coming across the border at all," Blunkett said after the deal was announced.
British Immigration Service officials claim a similar agreement between Britain and France in 2001, allowing British immigration controls at the three French Eurostar terminals, has reduced asylum applications at London's Waterloo Station, where the train arrives in Britain, by 95 percent.
The French-based British immigration officers last year refused access to 9,000 passengers attempting to board Eurostar.
"There is still a lot to do," said Blunkett, who announced that he was hoping to reach a similar deal with the Netherlands.
"This is another announcement of working with the French, the Belgians and in future the Dutch so that we can move our border controls on to the European continent and stop people claiming asylum," he said.
[Copyright Expatica News 2004]
Subject: Belgian news