The number of foreign nationals staying in Belgium for lengthy periods of time has grown sharply in recent years. At the beginning of 2015 a half a million foreigners were living in northern Belgium. That's 7.8% of the population. In 2005 the figure was a mere 300,000 or 4.9%.
Add people who have acquired Belgian nationality and their children and this figure rises to 1.2 million or 18%. A quarter of these newcomers hail from neighbouring countries. Half are of EU descent. By 2013 two-thirds of the new migrants were EU citizens who mainly originated in east European countries.
Newcomers prefer to settle in and around Brussels, the border area with the Netherlands in the provinces of Limburg and Antwerp and in the triangle between Brussels, Ghent and Antwerp.
Immigrants and especially people from Eastern Europe and outside the EU experience difficulty finding a job. Employment rates among non EU newcomers are under 50% compared to 72% among Belgians. People from outside the EU or from "new" EU member states are two to four times more likely to have a chequered job record.
By 2014 up to a 5th of kindergarteners and primary school children did not speak Dutch at home. Pupils of foreign descent or who do not speak Dutch at home are more likely to leave school without a diploma. Among Belgians the figure is 10%. It rises to 46% among non EU nationals.
People from outside the EU are more likely to be on an income under the poverty line, say they have a hard time making ends meet and have greater difficulty paying their bills. They are more likely to live in poor housing too.