Francken: “Repatriations are a PR stunt by Reynders”

The former Federal Secretary of State responsible for Asylum and Migration, the Flemish nationalist Theo Francken, has told VRT News that the repatriation of the orphaned children of Belgian IS terrorists is a PR stunt by the Belgian Foreign Minister Didier Reynders (Francophone liberal). Speaking on VRT television’s Sunday morning topical debate programme ‘De zevende dag’, Mr Francken said that the decision by Belgium’s minority caretaker government to repatriate the children from camps in Syria was motivated by a desire on the part of Mr Reynders to become the new Secretary-General of the Council of Europe. 

Mr Francken is suspicious of the timing of the repatriations coming as they do “by chance” (says Mr Francken) three weeks after the elections here in Belgium and a week before a Council of Europe elects its new Secretary-General.  

"Reynders wants to score points internationally and show how concerned he is about human rights”, Mr Francken said.

Mr Francken also remarked that people were brought back from Syria when he was Secretary of State, but the media was not told about it until the repatriations had been completed.  

Meanwhile, those in Mr Reynders’ entourage say that the repatriations were agreed by the whole government and that they are in the same vein as previous repatriations that came about as a result of a decision by the Federal Government in 2017 when Mr Francken was still Secretary of State. Moreover, they say that negotiations with the Kurds have been ongoing for months and that Belgium is not the only country repatriating minors.