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EU Council Told Belgium to Boost Border Controls Weeks Before Blasts

Belgium was advised to improve its border controls some three weeks before Brussels assaults, media reports suggested.

MOSCOW (Sputnik) — Belgium was advised to improve its border controls some three weeks prior to Tuesday's deadly attacks in Brussels, media reports suggested.

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On Tuesday, at least 31 people were killed and some 300 injured in two bomb blasts in Brussels' Zaventem airport and an explosion at a metro station in the city center. The Islamic State jihadist group, outlawed in many countries, including the United States and Russia, has claimed responsibility for the blasts.

The Belgian government was given a list of recommendations on improving its border security by the European Council on February 29, The Telegraph reported on Wednesday.

French border and customs police control vehicles at the France-Belgium border. File photo - Sputnik International
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Belgium was instructed to install a new passenger database to monitor the movement of EU citizens traveling to and from Syria and potentially involved in extremist groups. An intensified passport control regime was also recommended, with instructions to step up checks of passengers arriving from high-risk areas as well as using the Schengen Information System (SIS) to monitor alerts for the thousands of EU citizens fighting abroad as well as for stolen and forged passports, according to the publication.

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Belgium's use of untrained border officers at Charleroi airport, which services air connections with Algeria, Tunisia and Turkey, was noted by the European Council. The country's authorities were instructed to ensure the appropriate training level for all border officers who check passports.

Belgium has experienced a growing extremist problem in recent months. Many perpetrators of the November 13 Paris attacks were found to be Belgian citizens of North African descent, while the country has contributed more IS fighters per capita than any other Western nation, according to the International Centre For The Study Of Radicalisation And Political Violence think tank.

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