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    Spotlight on federal government’s approach to migrants

    © Belga
    Bernard Clerfayt is seeking an improved approach to the migrants in transit in Brussels.
    © Belga

    The Mayor of Schaerbeek, Bernard Clerfayt (DéFI), on Monday criticised the inertia of the federal authorities. His complaint relates to the presence of a number of migrants, currently in transit within Belgium, but living in the vicinity of the Brussels-North station.

    A meeting intended to take stock of the issue took place on Monday morning between the Minister for the Interior Jan Jambon (N-VA), the Secretary of State for Asylum and Migration, Theo Francken (N-VA), local and federal police services, as well as the Asylum and Immigration Service.

    The Secretary of State for Asylum and Immigration, Theo Francken (N-VA), blames the Mayor of Schaerbeek, Bertrand Clerfayt (déFI) for not settling the issue of the hundred or so migrants in transit, currently sleeping each night at the Brussels-North railway station. However, Bernard Clerfayt says that the issue falls within the ambit of the federal government. The railway police with remit for policing stations are dependent upon the federal government. He also considers that the harsh policy advocated by Theo Francken and Jan Jambon as regards immigration has not delivered any results, and is proving to be a strategy for worsening the situation.

    Bernard Clerfayt indicated, “The only police operations at Brussels-North railway station took place on the September 4th, 5th and 6th, 2017, when I requested these, as the presence of more than 500 migrants posed safety issues. Theo Francken is clearly pleased about the Tweets, but his department has taken no action to resolve the issue. The Asylum and Immigration Service was only able to deal with 20 cases a day. The result was two-thirds of people arrested for questioning by the local police during these operations ending up homeless at the end of any 24-hour period, where there had been no response from the Asylum and Immigration Office.”

    He says, “The migrants released received an order to leave the territory by the end of a three-month period. During this period of time where they are legally permitted on the territory, there is no intention to take them into custody. It is therefore a logical consequence that they are gathering at Brussels-North railway station, where they have citizen solidarity. With the winter shelters now being closed, the issue is again increasing in scale. The federal government is persisting in its policy of not intervening in the stations, where the police are moreover under-resourced, in itself a political choice. The government’s preference is to send police to drive away migrants from motorway service areas in Flanders, with the result that the problem is focused on Brussels.”

    He concludes, “I consequently believe that every migrant present at the Brussels-North railway station is proof of the failure of the promises made by Jan Jambon and Theo Francken.

    Lars Andersen
    The Brussels Times