Federal Chamber adopts stricter legislation on family reunion

Late on Thursday, Belgian lawmakers passed a bill which makes it more difficult for people to bring relatives into the country. This happened despite a warning issued by a number of lawyers that this could interfere with European regulations.

The bill was adopted by most Flemish parties in the Federal Chamber of Representatives, except for the greens and the far-right Vlaams Belang - for the Vlaams Belang, the proposals did not go far enough. The Francophone parties voted quite differently. Only the liberals of MR were in favour, while the others abstained. 

It was not a surprise that the bill was passed. Earlier this month, the Home Affairs Select Committee of the Lower House had already struck a deal on the issue. Under the new rules, it will be harder to bring over relatives from outside the EU.

For somebody to be able to bring a relative into the country he or she will have to prove that the newcomer has sufficient financial means, and that he or she will not be calling on the local social services (OCMW) for help. Candidates should also have proper housing. Sufficient living space should be available in the home where they will be staying.

"This will give rise to legal proceedings"

The Orde van Vlaamse Balies representing the Flemish lawyers claims that the new legislation is discriminating, as it makes a difference between Belgians bringing in people from within the EU, and Belgians bringing in people from outside the EU. In the second case, they cannot benefit from the free movement of persons.

The lawyers predict that the new rules will give rise to a number of legal proceedings being started, as people are poised to take legal action. The bill has been discussed in parliament for a long time, and a number of amendments were made.