Plan to train undocumented migrants in Brussels sparks opposition

Plan to train undocumented migrants in Brussels sparks opposition
The number of people found in Belgium without legal residency rose in 2018. Credit: © Belga

Plans to provide training to undocumented immigrants to fill up thousands of vacant jobs in the Brussels-Capital Region have drawn fierce opposition from politicians across partisan lines, including from the incumbent state secretary for migration Maggie De Block.

"This amounts to a de facto collective regularisation," De Block, member of the liberal Open VLD party, said. "Not on my watch."

The main goal of the plan, announced last Friday by employment agency Actiris in Brussels, would be to tackle the problem of unfilled vacancies, primarily in "bottleneck" jobs, which are mainly low-skilled jobs for which companies often find it hard to recruit enough candidates.

The plan would provide vocational training for undocumented migrants in the country with rejected or unprocessed asylum applications, foreign students or workers with an expired residence permit or recently unemployed foreign nationals.

"We need to be able to integrate people without valid residence permits into the labour market," Actiris spokesman Jan Gatz told Het Laatste Nieuws, adding that a working group was currently considering the legal and operational consequences of the proposition.

Recent figures by Belgian statistics office Statbel found there were an estimated 27,000 job vacancies in bottleneck positions during the first quarter of 2019.

Former Secretary of State for Asylum and Migration Theo Francken also struck down the plan, saying it would create a "suction effect."

"All illegal immigrants in hopeless situations elsewhere in Europe [will be told] that they can get work papers in Belgium and will want to come here," Francken said, according to Bruzz.

But the implementation of the plan would largely depend on the incoming government formations, both at the federal and at the regional level.

"For the time being, nothing is certain — we are in a political twilight zone," the Actiris spokesman said.

Gabriela Galindo

The Brussels Times

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