More foreigners with criminal records deported in 2021

More foreigners with criminal records deported in 2021
Asylum and Migration Minister Sammy Mahdi. Credit: Belga

Belgian Immigration last year repatriated 1,299 foreigners with criminal records, 150 more than in 2020, according to figures provided on Saturday by State Secretary for Migration Sammy Mahdi, Belga news agency reports.

A total of 766 were sent back directly from prison, up from 590 in 2020.

Mr. Mahdi (CD&V) said he wished to step up the repatriations by taking on additional staff at the Office des Etrangers (Immigration Service) to work directly from prisons. Pilot projects involving “return counsellors” are already underway in prisons in Hasselt, Brugge, Antwerp, Jamioulx, Lantin and Saint-Gilles.

During these return procedures, 139 detainees spent one night in a closed centre before their departure to ensure fast execution of the repatriation, according to Belga. A new closed departure center is to be built at Steenokkerzeel for this purpose.

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All told, 5,340 persons were sent back to their home countries last year through controlled procedures, almost half of them forcibly, and the rest voluntarily, which is the preferred method, according to the Migration Service.

The repatriations were complicated by Covid-related travel restrictions and the refusal by some persons to undergo PCR tests. According to Mr. Mahdi, a bill making the test compulsory will soon be tabled in government.

Meanwhile, cross-border repatriations also went up, numbering 1,237 last year, up from 808 in 2020. However, the figures for both years were markedly lower than those registered before the pandemic, due to a sharp drop in arrivals.

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