A decision by federal secretary of state for asylum, Theo Francken, to limit the number of asylum applications accepted by the Office for Foreigners to 60 a day is an example of “organised incompetence,” according to the non-profit organisation Plateforme Citoyenne. Francken’s decision is, he said, a response to the rising number of asylum applications the office (photo) is expected to deal with. The plan appears to form part of a strategy of making Belgium less attractive to asylum-seekers, forcing or at least encouraging them to look elsewhere.
In July this year, there were 2,117 requests filed; by October the number had gone up to 2,750. The new limit, which came into effect on Thursday, would cut the maximum number per month to half of that, assuming the office is only open on weekdays.
Francken described the current situation as “crisis mode”, however the same accusation is being levelled at his policy by those who work with refugees.
The Francken decision is causing the saturation of the shelters made available by non-profits for the reception of people who have not been processed as refugees. “People who ought to have been sent out to the network of official accommodation, after their registration by the Office for Foreigners,” said Mehdi Kassou of the Plateforme.
According to the Plateforme, a court in 2015 sentenced the government to pay a fine of €140 a day per person turned away from the Office for Foreigners, to help fund alternative accommodation. “Theo Francken, who has been in the job for four years, has not learned his lesson, and his management of asylum requests is a case of organised incompetence,” said the group’s chair, Alexis Deswaef.
The full effect of the limit on applications will only be seen later, but on Friday, De Standaard reports, those turned away because the limit had been reached numbered 60, who then went on to sleep rough, to return next day and try again.