Earlier the former asylum secretary, Flemish nationalist Theo Francken, referred to an asylum crisis now the tally of monthly applications is approaching 3,000 and a further 10,000 applications still need to be processed.
Wouter De Vriendt: “I comprehend the disquiet, but at the height of the asylum crisis in 2015 there were 5,000 applications a month. The present crisis is one about how we take care of asylum seekers and is one created by politicians.”
“Processing an asylum request takes 15 months. It used to take 9 months. The Office of the Commissioner-General for Refugees and Stateless Persons (which processes applications) works with 100 fewer employees than in 2016. There is a bottleneck and it takes time before a dossier is dealt with.”
Mr De Vriendt points to the reduction in the number of reception places that has fallen from 35,000 in 2016 to 16,500 last year: “The minute there is a peak, there are problems” he told VRT Radio.
The lawmaker is also worried about the way language is used to set people against each other: “Asylum seekers are treated like criminals that we need to defend ourselves against. Stories about rape and theft prove to be unfounded when the facts are checked. ”
Mr De Vriendt supports a European approach that allows refugees plucked from the Mediterraneum to be accommodated in various EU states.