April 19. 2024. 9:31

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Belgium announces new migration deal

The new migration deal that will be used to ‘solve’ the migration crisis was presented by Prime minister Alexander De Croo and Asylum and Migration State Secretary Nicole de Moor during a press conference on Wednesday.

Belgium was previously condemned for failing to guarantee a place to stay for each asylum seeker, and people sleeping in the streets have multiplied over the years.

“With this first package of measures, we are on the path to reform. Reception places will only be allocated to those who are undergoing an asylum procedure, cooperation on return will be enshrined in law, abuses will be combated, and vulnerable persons will be protected,” said de Moor in a statement.

About 700 new places will be created using shipping containers. De Moor is also tasked with creating an additional 2,000 places on top of the 8,000 already created under the current government.

“Our country is making significant efforts in this area. The current number of reception places in our country is historic: 38,000 places in addition to the 65,000 Ukrainian refugees. In the European context, we are doing more than our share,” De Croo said in a statement.

The government said it would also focus on freeing up space in asylum centres and tackling the issue of unsuccessful applicants.

“Those who have used up all appeals must return to their country of origin. That is why we will focus more on outflows and deportations. The proactive return policy is enshrined in law. We will not continue to create reception places. Those entitled to reception will get it, but no collective regularisation will happen. On the contrary,” said De Croo.

People who have to return to their home country — if possible, voluntarily — will no longer simply be given the order to leave the territory but will be monitored. If they refuse to leave the territory, they can be escorted to ensure they leave. To ensure this is possible, more staff will be recruited.

On the other hand, there will also be a stricter and swifter application of the Dublin Directive, allowing asylum seekers to be sent back to the member state where they first arrived.

Several measures will also be taken about family reunification

It notably includes a procedure for determining who the effective carer of the child is. Family reunification with Belgian children will be possible for the parent who effectively takes care of the child daily, as before being the child’s parent was sufficient.

The ban on family reunification — which provides for a two-year waiting period for third-country nationals who are here through family reunification — will be extended to foreigners who seek the right of residence as partners of a Belgian or EU citizen.

The government also recognises situations where children are granted refugee status because they need protection, not their parents. In such cases, parents can invoke humanitarian regularisation to stay in Belgium with their children. However, the government believes that this is not the purpose of regularisation and now creates a separate right of residence, via family reunification, for the parents of recognised minor refugees.

In addition, it will be written into the law that children can no longer be detained in closed centres.

Former state secretary for asylum Theo Francken (N-VA, ECR) denounced this inclusion in the law, arguing the measure will attract families with children to Belgium.

“In a certain context, it should be possible to lock up children. […] We are the only Western European country to block it in law. […] Not doing it seems humane, but in practice, it creates perverse effects and is inhumane,” the Flemish right-wing politician told VRT.

(Anne-Sophie Gayet | EURACTIV.com)