Asylum Secretary writes to Afghans considering asylum in Belgium

The Belgian Asylum Secretary Theo Francken has written a letter advising Afghans not to seek asylum in Belgium. The letter has been posted on Facebook and follows a similar initiative last October in which the secretary of state addressed Iraqis thinking of applying for asylum here.

In his letter Mr Francken warns of the dangers of enlisting the services of people traffickers. He says it's a waste of time and money and that it's dangerous and there's no guarantee of success. He continues: the Belgian authorities will reject you application if your fingerprints have been taken in another EU state and will do everything to return you to the EU country that bears responsibility for you. This happened to 107 Afghans last year.

Mr Francken points out that applicants claiming to be minors will have to prove this and says there is no automatic recognition for Afghans. Numbers of Afghan minors soared in September but it soon appeared most were adults.

Month on month the number of Afghan asylum seekers doubled in October.

Mr Francken's initiative follows calls from the Belgian Commissariat for Refugees to launch a campaign to deter Afghan asylum seekers and redouble efforts to return failed asylum seekers. The commissariat conceded that Afghanistan is a country at war with a problematic situation, but not of a nature that means all Afghans require protection.

In October Afghans (24.5% - 1,177 applications) made up the second largest group of asylum seekers arriving in Belgium after Syrians (31.1%).

Attempts to stem the flow of asylum seekers from Iraq worked: in September they formed the largest group arriving in Belgium (2,207). By October the figure had fallen to 748.

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