More cases of "holidaying" refugees

This year has seen 28 cases of asylum seekers returning temporarily to their home country so far, a sharp rise on the year. People granted refugee status in Belgium, are not allowed to go back though, and risk losing their residence permit if they do.

The figures were released by the State Secretary for Asylum and Migration, Theo Francken. "This is about people who received an official refugee status, but who were caught going on holiday to the country where they claimed life is unsafe. This is fraud of course, this is not possible", Francken told the VRT. 

"In the past, we hardly held any checks in this respect, but we introduced systematic checks last year, with the number of holiday makers being caught rising sharply", Francken adds.

The whole of 2016 had 46 reports of this kind of possible asylum fraud. People from the former Soviet Union, Iraq and some countries in Black Africa account for the most cases.

This year, the number has risen to 28 after just 2.5 months. Of the 46 cases last year, 20 have been treated so far. This resulted in 14 asylum seekers losing their residence permit while 6 managed to retain their refugee status.

Some refugees are trying to dodge checks by travelling back via the Netherlands, but the Belgian and Dutch authorities are now cooperating better to exchange information. "We are also negotiating with France, and are cooperating in an informal way with Germany."