Brussels MPs are calling on the Federal Government to provide clear-cut criteria for the regularisation of the region’s undocumented residents.
Despite there being tens of thousands of undocumented migrants in Belgium, most of whom are living in Brussels, there is no clear agreement when it comes to how the regularisation of these people is decided. This is problematic and varies between regions.
“The thing is, there are no set criteria regarding regularisation, that’s the difficulty. It is not at all transparent now in which way or for which reason people are regularised or not,” Els Rochette, Brussels MP for one.brussels, told The Brussels Times.
She spoke of one young undocumented migrant who worked in the healthcare sector and spoke fluent French and Dutch. His proof of stay expired and he couldn’t work anymore, even though the management of the institution tried to keep him in employment.
“I thought that his application would certainly have a positive outcome but it was rejected, which for me is incomprehensible,” Rochette said. She stressed that in other near-identical cases, “one received negative advice while the other got a positive response.”
Multiple problems, one solution
Brussels socialist party one.brussels-Vooruit is therefore calling on the Federal Government to make the process for dealing with cases more transparent and to put concrete criteria on who can be regularised.
This call follows accusations made by the representatives of the group of migrants that went on hunger strike against Secretary of State of Asylum and Migration Sammy Mahdi on Tuesday.
They alleged that, during the negotiations to end the strike action, Mahdi made promises in which “concrete elements” that should make it possible to regularise a “significant part” of the hunger strikers were presented, but that he failed to follow up on these promises.
“What shocked me the most was to hear the representatives say that they felt completely instrumentalised by Mahdi and that they felt used. If you observe everything that has now been revealed, you can only conclude that they were being used,” Rochette said.
The Brussels Government sent a letter to the Federal Government, specifically calling for regularisation via a work contract to be one of the criteria to ensure that undocumented people in employment aren’t exploited.
Rochette added that clear-cut criteria still allow individual cases to be deliberated if there are doubts. “For these cases, there must be a procedure, or the government could use an independent commission could decide on the advice, this was also a suggestion from the activists, as well as their lawyers, and it is also something we support.”
Empathy and humanity needed
In response to the allegations made by the hunger strikers’ representatives, Mahdi once again stressed that regularisation is an exception.
Every State Secretary can motivate the use of that exception differently, which “is why we have named and listed elements that for us would contribute to the positive assessment of a case. Examples have been given, yes, but always hypothetical,” he told Bruzz, which reported that so far only five out of a total of 20 dossiers reviewed by the Immigration Office have received a positive response.
“I have to make sure that the policy is what it is meant to be, namely an exception procedure for people who are here illegally and for whom you very occasionally decide to ask for recognition,” Mahdi said on Terzake, adding that it should not be used for people who “fulfil criteria like living here for a few years.”
However, those people, who have lived here for decades, who speak the languages, who can get a work contract – as Rochette put it, “people who are anchored here” – are often seen as mere numbers in the system, and can be expelled “just like that.”
“But their life is here now. They are part of our society and contribute. This cannot go on. Meanwhile, Mahdi’s way of dealing with these cases is incomprehensible and very concerning. It would be nice if he could show some more humanity,” she concluded.