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Procedural abuse in cases involving aliens finally tackled
At the proposal of State Secretary for Asylum and Migration Theo Francken, a draft bill has been approved with which the fight against procedural abuse in cases involving aliens can be both facilitated and turned up a notch. “From now on, it is possible in one and the same hearing to pronounce judgement on appeal as well as a judgement in which the appellant is convicted for a manifestly fraudulent appeal,” Theo Francken explains. “And from now on, the lawyer too is held liable for this procedural abuse.” The judge can impose fines from 125 to 2,500 euros in this regard.
“It has actually been possible since 2011 for the judge to act against procedural abuse in cases involving aliens,” Theo Francken says. “However, it was particularly cumbersome and thus hardly ever applied in practice: only twenty times, to be exact. Each time you had to organise a new hearing to argue and adjudicate the procedural abuse, which put magistrates off. We are now simplifying this procedure considerably. As a result we also predict that there will be a lot more convictions, because procedural abuse in immigration cases is still very widespread.”
Sanctioning lawyers too
“There’s another reason why judges almost never acted against procedural abuse,” Theo Francken explains. “The only sanction, a fine, was not borne by the lawyer, but by the alien he or she represented. This was usually a person of limited or no means, with the result that the fine couldn’t be collected and the sanction was toothless. Now we will also sanction the person actually responsible, the lawyer. Convictions for procedural abuse will from now on be submitted to the President of the Bar Council, who can start a disciplinary procedure. In this way, we are giving the legal profession the chance to act in a self-regulatory manner against colleagues who do not take their job seriously. And just as important for combating procedural abuse, the lawyer in question will from now on not receive any public defence compensation for his or her appeal.”