Cross-border couples call on Belgium to relax ‘discriminatory’ rules
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Cross-border couples call on Belgium to relax ‘discriminatory’ rules

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Cross-border couples who have been separated from each other by travel bans are asking the Belgian federal government to relax the rules for uniting partners living in different countries in an open letter.

The organisations ‘Love Is Not Tourism Belgium’ and ‘Belgians separated from loved ones by travel bans’ consider the current rules to be “arbitrary and discriminatory.”

Closed borders and bans on non-essential travel kept many couples apart since the beginning of the year, even after tourist travel to certain countries became allowed again. But at the end of August, Belgium’s National Security Council decided to open its borders for cross-border couples from 1 September, on certain conditions.

Partners have to show that they are in a “sustainable relationship,” which the government defines as having lived together continuously for at least 1 year, having a child together, or demonstrating an intimate relationship of at least 2 years, with at least 3 visits with a minimum total duration of 45 days.

These conditions, however, are “arbitrary and discriminatory,” according to the organisations. “The durability and seriousness of a relationship do not depend on its length: all serious relationships start with one month,” they wrote.

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The rule that couples must have spent a minimum of 45 days together is discriminatory against Belgians and their partners who have not had the opportunity to be with their partner for as long as they wished, because of work, studies or visa requirements, they argued.

Additionally, the groups remind the government that they “are all adults here,” and saying that the current conditions infantilise them as well as minimise the importance of their relationships. “We have the right and ability to decide for ourselves whether or not our relationship is sincere and lasting,” they said.

As an alternative to the system currently in force in Belgium, they propose a model like the Danish one, which requires a 3-month relationship, submission of a negative Covid-19 test, and two weeks in quarantine.

“This model prevents the further spread of the virus. Additionally, the usual visa requirements continue to apply, thus preventing misuse for migration purposes.”

On top of that, the Danish model applies not only to (unmarried) lovers, but also to spouses, cohabiting partners, fiancées, parents, step-parents, step-brothers and step-sisters, grandparents, step-grandparents, children, step-children, grandchildren and step-grandchildren.

Since Belgium announced the conditions, a group of some 50 people took part in a small protest in Brussels, calling the measures “old-fashioned” and “too strict.”

The full letter can be read here.

Maïthé Chini
The Brussels Times

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