More refugees returning to their home country on a voluntary basis

The number of asylum seekers returning home, is on the up. The figures apply to refugees who have applied for a residence permit, and to those staying here without the legal documents to do so. Last year, 4,053 immigrants returned out of their own free will, out of the 35,476 that arrived in Belgium. The first 6 months of 2016 saw already 2,050 refugees going back. Immigrants are now getting material support if they go back.

The offices for returning refugees are a growing success. The VRT spoke to Anman, who arrived at the refugee accommodation centre in Kapellen (Antwerp) last August. He wanted a better life in Belgium, but now he sees no future in Belgium either, so he decided to return to Baghdad.

Anman wanted to open a pizza restaurant in Belgium. He will get support from the Belgian government to start a restaurant in Baghdad now, under certain conditions. However, this is nothing compared to the cash he lost by coming here. Lieven Van Peteghem of the immigration office Fedasil says that Anman had too high expectations. This image was mainly created by people traffickers who earn cash on the refugees' back, he adds. 

"Always 'negative', 'negative'"

Inshad is another example. The man is disillusioned and will return to Pakistan on a voluntary basis, together with his family.

"I waited 10 years for the papers, but they didn't come. Always 'negative', 'negative'." Ishan will also get some money.

It is determined case by case how much cash returning refugees get, says Jozefien Didden. She denies that cash would be the main incentive. "This reintegration budget is mostly about material support, and no cash. The focus is on counselling and advice. Our partners over there, like Caritas, will help these persons for periods of 6 months up to one year."

Francken: "Avoid the mistakes of the past"

The Asylum Secretary Theo Francken wants to open more so-called "return offices", and aims to boost staff numbers there: "We will hire more coaches to convince people to go back, because this is the best option."

"The people at Fedasil had a lot of work with arriving refugees. Now, the instream has diminished and they can concentrate more on return policies. Don't forget that 1 in 2 asylum seekers are being refused in the end. Not all the people get the papers they want. They have to return to their home country, but this is a major challenge. Things went wrong in this respect in the past, but we aim for a better approach now", Francken told the VRT.