New Coalition Agreement and new State Secretary for Asylum and Migration
The new government Michel published its coalition agreement on 9 October 2014. Theo Francken (N-VA) was appointed as the new State Secretary for Asylum and Migration.
The coalition agreements main priorities with regard to asylum and migration are the following:
The new federal government will continue to work on a coherent, effective and qualitative asylum and migration policy, respecting the international commitments. In particular, the government will provide high-quality reception, transparent and fast procedures. A humane but firm return policy shall also be a cornerstone.
The government is committed to tackle improper parallel procedures. The government will thoroughly evaluate asylum and migration policies which should lead to more transparency, quality and efficiency. The Immigration Office and the Reception Agency Fedasil will be audited.
- The right to apply for asylum is a crucial international engagement to provide protection to those who are prosecuted all over the world; therefore a continuous improvement of the efficiency and quality of the asylum procedure is essential and a decision on the asylum application should be taken within 6 months.
- Subsequent asylum applications when no new elements are invoked will be discouraged and dissuasion campaigns will continue to take place in countries from where applicants have little chance on a positive outcome on their asylum application.
- Furthermore the processing of manifestly unfounded applications will be accelerated according to the instruments provided by European guidelines. There will be more strict monitoring on recognised refugees who return to their country of origin and the extension of subsidiary protection will be evaluated in case of durable and important changes regarding the security situation in the country of origin.
- The engagements regarding resettlement will be continued within a European framework and in consultation with local authorities.
- Belgium will transpose the European Asylum Procedures Directive 2013/32/EU in national legislation within the prescribed deadline.
II. Migration Policy
- The legislation on family reunification will be fine-tuned in accordance with European legislation.
- The granting of short term visa should occur quickly, but with an effective monitoring on return. In this perspective, guarantors who take charge will be included in a database and the necessary measures will be taken in order to enforce the obligations involved, including regarding medical expenses.
- Particular attention will be given to the continuation of the fight against marriages and cohabitation of convenience and to false declarations of parenthood, with respect for the right on a family life and everyone’s privacy.
- Belgium will continue to provide protection for victims of human trafficking and the protection of unaccompanied minors will be reinforced.
- Regularisation will only be granted in exceptional cases, on an individual basis. There will be no more collective regularisation campaigns and the he need for regularization should be maximally reduced by rapid procedures and a proper return policy.
- Although the reception crisis came to an end, there are several ongoing international conflicts which makes an increase of the number of asylum seekers not unlikely. Therefore a sufficient buffer capacity should be preserved.
- Since the duration of the asylum procedure is significantly reduced, asylum seekers will preferably be hosted in collective reception facilities. Individual reception will primarily be reserved for certain vulnerable groups (people with physical disabilities, pregnant women, UAMs) and asylum seekers whose chance to be granted a protection status is high.
IV. Encouraging the return policy
- The government aims to realize a qualitative, humane and sustainable return policy based on the principle 'voluntarily return if possible, forced as necessary '.
- The voluntary and forced return policy will be reinforced and asylum seekers shall be informed from the start that return is an actual option to be kept in mind. Priority shall be given to the return of persons in irregular stay who are serving a prison sentence.
- The capacity of detention centers will be increased, but the detention of vulnerable persons will be avoided.
V. The role of the European Union
- The Government will continue to work towards a harmonized European asylum and migration policy and endeavors for the effective implementation of all directives by all EU Member States. The government also supports practical cooperation aimed at strengthening a uniform assessment of asylum applications.
The government shall support the strengthening of Frontex to secure borders, to fight illegal migration and human trafficking. The government will also consult with the regions to what
extent the support for circular migration can be improved.
The complete coalition agreement can be consulted below (page 151-162) in French and in Dutch.
In reaction to the publication of the coalition agreement, the organization "Coordination and Initiatives for Refugies and Migrants" has released an article (in French) in which it worries about a number of problematic issues, including Belgian asylum policy, the objective to increase the number of detention centers and the focus on regularization for medical reasons. CIRÉ highlights two positive elements mentioned in the agreement: strengthening the protection of unaccompanied migrant minors and the possibility to carry on a control of migrants’ detention in detention centers.