General Policy Note on Asylum and Migration released by new State Secretary Theo Francken

On 28 November 2014, the new State Secretary for Asylum Policy and Migration, Theo Francken, delivered the general policy note defining the main orientations and actions in the field of asylum and migration.

cover general policy note Theo Francken

The general policy note, delivered by each Minister and State Secretary after being appointed, intends to give the key orientations and main actions to be achieved during the completion of his/her mandate.

Theo Francken, who has been nominated as State Secretary for Asylum Policy and Migration in the new coalition, has declared in his general political note on Asylum and Migration that:

  • Migration forms part of the Belgian society and that it will remain like this in the future. Belgium needs "hands and brains" and therefore has to remain open
  • The new Government will guarantee a human and respectful asylum and migration policy which will rely on simple and quick procedures, a qualitative reception policy and a human and firm return policy
  • The Government, and the State Secretary for Asylum Policy and Migration in particular, will intensively cooperate with the EU, federal public institutions, federated entities and local authorities.

Among others, the general political note presents the following directions :

I. EU Policy

  • Supporting the implementation of a common european asylum policy
  • Strengthening a global approach on asylum and migration
  • Taking advantage of the potential of economic migration
  • Increasing the effectiveness of Frontex to secure borders, struggle against irregular migration and fight human smuggling and trafficking
  • Examining the extent to which circular migration can be supported
  • Improving the response to crisis situations

II. Asylum, Migration and Development Cooperation

  • Focusing first on geographic regions impacting on migratory flows towards Belgium, such as the Great Lakes region and North Africa
  • Examining how to involve development cooperation in voluntary return and reintegration projects in countries of origin

III. Asylum, subsidiary protection and reception

  • Guaranteeing efficient, transparent, qualitative and quick asylum procedures
  • Expanding reception facilities, if necessary
  • Resettling 150 refugees in Belgium in 2015
  • Continuing information and prevention campaigns, with a specific focus on potential applicants having little or no chance to be granted protection in Belgium
  • Preventing and fighting abuses of the asylum procedure
  • Adapting the list of safe countries, possibly including additional countries
  • Favouring collective reception over individual one (with the exception of vulnerable groups: MENA, disabled, elderly, pregnant women etc.)
  • Computerizing data collection and reception facilities management

IV. Migration Policy

  • Reforming the Immigration Act to elaborate a more transparent Migration Code
  • Introducing fees for the submission of residence applications, except those of EU citizens, unaccompanied minors, asylum seekers, applicants for subsidiary protection and for medical regularization
  • Ensuring residence rights aren't granted to criminals and offenders
  • Combating mariages and cohabitions of convenience as well as false recognitions of parenthood
  • Struggling against abuses of the social and health care system
  • Accelerating the processing of temporary residence permits' applications and carefully monitoring returns 
  • Extending  the period for assessing family reunification requirements from 3 to 5 years after delivery of a limited residence permit
  • Strengthening the protection granted to unaccompanied minors and putting emphasis on developing "life projects" with and for them
  • Elaborating a new action plan 2015-2019 to fight trafficking and smuggling in human beings, with particular emphasis on the training of frontline actors and the protection of victims
  • Asserting the principle of exceptional and individual regularization over collective ones
  • Finalizing the transposition of Directives 2011/98/EU, 2014/36/EU and 2014/66/EU

V. Return Policy: "voluntary if possible, forced if necessary"

  • Encouraging voluntary returns, thanks to enhanced cooperation between stakeholders, awareness-raising of and better communication towards target groups. Increasing efforts to provide return accompaniment and places
  • Implementing an efficient approach and increasing forced returns, supporting staff providing social and psychological assistance, training coaches, increasing capacities in retention centers for illegally staying foreigners
  • Prioritizating the return of those endangering public order
  • Providing appropriate places for vulnerable target groups, including families with children and increasing return opportunities for them
  • Concluding readmission agreements and administrative agreements, and continuing negotiations with Senegal, Cameroon, Côte d'Ivoire and Nigeria
  • Struggling against procedures introduced for the sole purpose of delaying the return process

VI. Fight against international terrorism and extremism

  • Combating possible participation in an armed conflict in certain territories, at the stages of departure, stay and return from such regions. Initially adapating legislation to extend if necessary cases of imposition of an entry ban
  • Considering the withdrawal of a residence permit, and in other cases of a refugee status or subsidiary protection status in cases of evidence of terrorist involvement or violent djihadism

To read the full general policy note download the enclosed document (only in Dutch and French).

* The elements listed above are not exhaustive. The aforementioned points include information that was not necessarily mentioned, or not in detail, in the coalition agreement (see EMN article here).

Publication Date: Fri 28 Nov 2014
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