The Minister in charge of asylum, Maggie De Block, on Thursday denied that immigrants could enter Belgium through family reunification without having their applications checked.
Applications are checked even when they are tacitly accepted after a fixed timeframe has elapsed, she explained.
By law, there are two ways to accept the applications: issuing an instruction to the commune where the reunification application was made or allowing the deadline to elapse.
In 2018, the number of visas granted in the second manner quadrupled, to 311, and the Audit Department commented in a report that there was a “worrying trend” of “family reunification applications that the Immigration Office did not examine before delivering a visa.”
Contesting the finding, De Block wrote that, while “it’s true that the Immigration Office – due to a shortage of resources that I have never hidden – increasingly used the second option at a given time, that was done after applications were screened, and only for those cases in which screening showed that an investigation was not necessary.”
Responding to questions from Dries Van Langenhove (far-right Flemish nationalist), Michel De Maegd (liberal) and Ben Segers (socialist), De Block explained that the Immigration Office paid more attention to applications where there was a suspicion of fraud or which were non-compliant.
“To say that residence documents were issued without any examination is therefore incorrect,” the minister added.
Minister De Block further disclosed that she had launched a recruitment drive to add 45 employees to the staff of the Immigration Office.
Meanwhile, the Court of Justice of the European Union has deemed the second option in the Belgian legislation non-compliant with European Law.
Minister De Block has asked the Immigration Service to come up with proposed amendments to the law.
The Brussels Times