Refugees’ situation to be reviewed every 5 years

In future those given refugee status won’t automatically be allowed to remain in Belgium indefinitely. On Thursday evening the Chamber of Representatives passed a bill that means that in future refugees will be able to remain here for five years after which there situation will be reviewed. The bill also increases the maximum period of time that Aliens’ Office has to investigate applications by asylum-seekers to bring over members of their (immediate) family from 6 to 9 months.

Currently, Belgium is one of the few countries where those granted refugee status are allowed to remain indefinitely.

Under the new rules, the situation in a refugees home country will be looked at once they have been here for 5 years. If the situation there has improved to the extent that the person in question no longer runs any risk from persecution or war, he/she could have his/her recognition as a refugee withdrawn and would be no longer be allowed to remain here legally.

The Francophone socialists, the far-left PTB/PVDA and the Flemish and Francophone greens voted against the measures. The Francophone Christian democrats abstained.

Requests for to bring family over

The measures to extend the period for family reunification requests to be processed from 6 to 9 months enjoyed the support of the coalition parties and the far-right Vlaams Belang.

The change is a consequence of the flood of asylum request a couple of months ago. The idea is to give the authorities more time to examine cases as once the period has elapsed without a decision, family members are allowed to come over regardless.

In 2014 there were 52,486 “family re-unification” cases. This rose to 55,179 in 2015. The majority of request came from EU citizens (31,731 in 2014 and 32,016 last year). There were also a good number of people born here that were given leave to remain here thanks to “family reunification”. Their number rose from 5,831 in 2014 to 6,795 in 2015. These are the children of foreigners that have been granted leave to stay here in Belgium.