The former asylum secretary Theo Francken (N-VA) and Ms De Block were quizzed on Sunday following the arson attack on a planned asylum centre in Bilzen. Both politicians recognise that Belgium is facing a new asylum crisis. Nearly 3,000 applications for asylum were filed last month. The monthly figure hasn’t yet reached the 5,000 applications received monthly in 2015, but the trend is clearly upward.
Ms De Block points to a European trend, but concedes Belgium has a specific problem in that failed asylum seekers then go on to apply for asylum for each of their children individually. Belgium has less strict rules on family reunification than neighbouring countries. An N-VA bill has now been tabled to address this.
Theo Francken explained: “A Syrian who arrives in Brussels and applies for asylum and is recognised as a refugee can get his family to join him during a first year as long as they meet minimal conditions. We can reduce this to 3 months as France, the Netherlands and Germany have done.”
Asylum minister De Block says that when Mr Francken was in office her party supported this idea and would do so again. Only the issue could have been sorted more quickly if the N-VA had remained in government. Ms De Block points to stricter rules in the Nordic countries which mean asylum seekers are looking for alternatives.