A bogus relationship can help a partner to get hold of a residence permit. Ghent’s bogus relationships unit opens an investigation every time somebody without a residence permit applies to get married, receive recognition of legal cohabitation or when an adoption is involved. Approval of the application means the applicant is awarded the right of residence. “It’s a standard procedure to prevent abuse” says alderman Isabelle Heyndrickx. The unit will interview those concerned and check their ties. On the basis of its investigation a positive recommendation may be issued but a suspect dossier is passed to prosecutors.
Last year 309 investigations were conducted. In 27 instances permission was refused. That represents a proportionate increase in recent years. The number of complaints from duped partners about bogus relationships has doubled in only 4 years.
Across Belgium the immigration department received 2,000 complaints in 2021 – up 400 since 2018.
Marleen is one of the duped: “I was madly in love. I really ddin’t cotton onto it” she sighs. She filed a complaint months after she and her Brazilian partner started cohabitating. “To start off with he was the perfect partner. He even helped with the housework. After a while he started to drink. We rowed and I saw other women”. The situation got so out of hand the police were called to their home and that triggered the complaint.