Nicolas Maeterlinck

Growing number of refugees holidaying in their home countries

A growing number of people that have obtained refugee status in Belgium are travelling back to the countries they originally fled for holidays. The news appears in an article in Tuesday’s edition of the daily ‘Het Laatste Nieuws’ and has since been confirmed by the Secretary of State responsible for asylum and migration Theo Francken (Flemish nationalist).

During the first six months of this year, 115 people with refugee status in Belgium were found to have visited their home countries. Mr Francken told VRT Radio 1’s morning news and current affairs programme ‘De ochtend’ that this is an issue “As refugees that return of their own volition are actually indicating that they no longer feel unsafe in the country that they had fled”.    

Official figures show that 115 case files have been opened against refugees that have visited their home countries this year. The lion’s share of the cases involve people with refugee status from Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan. They now risk having their leave to remain in Belgium revoked.

“We offer international protection to people that can’t return to their countries of origin. This gives them a number of entitlements, but also is subject to a number of conditions. One of these is that you don’t return. Anyone returning voluntarily for a holiday, shows that they no longer fear persecution. Otherwise they wouldn’t return, would they?”, Mr Francken said.

The Secretary of State added that the increase in the number of refugees being caught after having returned home is thanks to stricter checks on possible asylum fraud. Furthermore, more information is now being exchanged between different EU countries. This means that the Belgian authorities are made aware much more quickly that someone with refugee status here has used an airport in one of our neighbouring countries to fly home.