Belgian stakeholders gather at Migration and Asylum Policy Event of the Belgian Contact Point of the EMN
Today, the Belgian Contact Point of the European Migration Network organized its national conference, which focused on the main developments in the field of migration and asylum that took place in Belgium in 2017.
During the Migration and Asylum Policy event of the Belgian Contact Point of the EMN, participants and panelists examined and discussed the main developments in the fields of migration and asylum in Belgium in 2017. The event gathered over 130 key stakeholders from different organisations active in the field of migration and asylum (such as public bodies, academic institutions, NGOs, etc.).
The State Secretary for Asylum Policy and Migration, Theo Francken, delivered a keynote speech at the beginning of the day. He referred inter alia to 1) the Belgian response to the "migration/refugee crisis" and the current importance of post-crisis structural measures in the field of reception and international protection, 2) the importance of legal migration flows that benefit both the migrant and the host society (win-win) and 3) the increasing transit migration and efforts to promote voluntary returns and to enforce returns when necessary. The State Secretary also addressed the situation of migrants in Libya and human rights concerns, referring to the Belgian authorities' involvement in the recent African Union - European Union Summit and advocating for the conclusion of an agreement between the EU and Tunisia.
The full day conference was then divided into three thematic sessions:
- The first panel focused on international protection and reception. First, the recent legislative changes in Belgium – linked to the transposition of the Procedure Directive - regarding the international protection procedure were presented by the Commissioner General for Refugees and Stateless Persons. UNHCR – who drafted an opinion on the legislative changes – also presented their perspective on the topic. Furthermore, the latest changes regarding the reception of asylum seekers were examined, including the reduction of the reception capacity and the current challenges that the reception agency Fedasil faces (such as contingency planning and preparedness for crisis management). Finally, the EU developments and negotiations related to the new phase of the CEAS – as well as the Belgian position in this regard – were discussed.
- The second session was dedicated to legal migration and integration. The discussion focused on the transposition of the Single Permit Directive (2011/98/EU) into Belgian legislation – which is currently ongoing – and on the changes this will entail in practice for the procedure related to the residence and employment of foreign workers in Belgium. The new single permit procedure was also examined from the perspective of businesses employing foreign workers. Furthermore, the integration pathway for newcomers implemented by the Brussels Capital Region (French-speaking) was presented, including the newly opened reception office “BAPA”.
- The last session focused on irregular migration and return. The session included a presentation on the phenomenon of migrant smuggling and transitmigration in Belgium (organisation, location, etc.) and on possible ways to fight against this phenomenon. The panel further focused on recent developments in the field of voluntary return (e.g. increased cooperation between the Reception Agency Fedasil and certain big Belgian cities, or assistance provided to returnees with medical issues) and forced return (including the current focus on return linked to the public order and national security). The reintegration of returnees in their countries of origin was also discussed, including recent projects set up to assist returnees.
The programme of the event, as well as the powerpoint presentations used during the day are available below. The photos of the event are available by clicking here.