Families with children are no longer locked up

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Minors may no longer be locked up. Alternative measures should prevent families from taking advantage of them in order not to return.

The Vivaldi team agreed that the tone and style of the asylum and migration policy must change, but the policies of the past governments are broadly continued, with a focus on shorter procedures (within six months) and a more efficient return policy .

The master plan for closed centers initiated by Michel I is being implemented: that is, the number of places in closed centers for sans paper will be increased, but minors can no longer be detained. That was a very important demand from Groen and Ecolo, and is probably the most symbolic measure of this agreement.

The decision to stop using the residential units for families in the closed center of Steenokkerzeel goes against the committee of former judge Marc Bossuyt, who recently evaluated the return policy. He thought it was justified and even necessary to lock up families to prevent them from going into hiding and remaining de facto.

To prevent families from abusing this, the new government will take alternative measures. Possible alternatives are open return homes (which already exist), electronic surveillance, house arrest and possibly the payment of a financial guarantee. According to the Bossuyt Committee, many alternatives have already been investigated in the past, but they do not appear to work. The coalition agreement also refers to ‘regular administrative and / or police checks’, but nothing is said about the controversial law on residential access. However, the Bossuyt Committee also considered a solution necessary for this. “Leaving everything as it is is not serious.” (DS September 16)

Compliance with resettlement

The chapter on asylum and migration says that Belgium will honor its international obligations and refers to human rights treaties and the Global Compact for Migration, the UN Migration Pact, over which the Michel I government fell at the end of 2018. Those in need should be able to receive protection. Special attention is paid to vulnerable people, such as children and LGBs. Our country is also committed to fulfilling its promises regarding the resettlement of refugees. For 2018-19, our country committed to resettle 2,000 refugees from camps outside Europe, barely half of which were exported.

Just like former State Secretary Theo Francken (N-VA), the Vivaldi team is also trying to work on a new asylum and migration code. The procedures must be short, with respect for appeal procedures and multiple asylum applicants. Whether that means that they have the right to reception again, a right that has now been severely curtailed, is not stated in so many words in the text.

Fedasil’s reception network must have sufficient buffer places. Vulnerable groups go to small-scale and individual care as much as possible. The Immigration Department will start again as soon as possible with the physical registration of asylum applications (now asylum seekers must first register online and sometimes wait weeks for reception). All migration services, including the Immigration Department, are externally audited.

After the debacle with humanitarian visas under Theo Francken, humanitarian visas will be issued more transparently. Parliament will be involved in this. Readmission agreements with other countries will also be submitted to parliament, so that they can be discussed behind closed doors.

The fight against transmigration, especially nuisance along the motorway car parks and criminal smuggling networks, will also receive special attention. Unaccompanied minors who are spotted should no longer be able to disappear unnoticed from the radar. The identification and identification procedure will be strengthened for this.

Remarkable: the text does not contain so many words that the rules for family reunification are tightened. First, a benchmark with neighboring countries such as the Netherlands and France will be done to compare the legal criteria. Afterwards, the rules are revised if necessary, with the aim of making them more consistent.

Finally, a novelty is that attempts are made to guide migrants without legal residence more quickly and more specifically to existing residence procedures or to return. The federal government will fund pilot projects for this, in collaboration with Fedasil, large cities, social services and NGOs. This has been happening in a few Dutch cities for some time and has also been a question of the assembled civil society for some time.





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