Theo Francken: “This is not a return law. This is a ‘stay in Belgium law’.”

9 November 2023
Theo Francken

Secretary of State de Moor’s “return” bill was debated in the Parliamentary Committee on the Interior. MP Theo Francken fiercely criticised the draft. “Nothing is coming of the promised tightening measures by the De Croo government after the attack a few weeks ago. What’s more, the bill is full of dangerous relaxations. For some illegal immigrants, return even becomes impossible.”

“Any illegal immigrant with a minor child in Belgium will never be sent back because of this bill. After all, you can only organise such a return if you can temporarily hold such families in the closed family units. But it is precisely this possibility that de Moor now wants to ban in her bill. This amounts to formalising an open borders policy for a very large group of illegal immigrants. For them, this is not a return law, but a ‘stay in Belgium’ law. And you can bet that this will spread among illegal immigrants with children living elsewhere in Europe. That will generate a major pull effect. And this will also give rise to the malign practice of the false recognition of children, the so-called ‘bébé-papiers’ (travel documents for children). The naivety surrounding this is appalling. This is a capital mistake.”

Newspaper talk

Despite the fact that even de Moor herself had called for the possibility of entry into residential premises, nothing of that remains in the bill. “Incomprehensible,” says Theo. “De Moor previously advocated entry into residential premises in a major interview with the De Morgen newspaper. To then defend a bill in the Chamber without any trace of it. Talking about things in the newspapers doesn’t buy the public anything. It is in the Council of Ministers, and not just to the media, that Secretary of State de Moor should have been forcing the issue around this. That did not happen. Duly noted.”

Extend closed centre stay

According to Theo, the maximum duration of a stay in a closed centre must be extended, because many residents try to stretch their stay to the maximum until the term expires, after which release inevitably follows and repatriation becomes impossible.

Too nice, too meek, too soft

An expansion of entry bans in the Schengen area is also a crucial factor for Theo. “Putting illegal immigrants on a plane serves no purpose if they can simply reapply for a visa from another European Member State afterwards and thus come back again. European law allows us to issue entry bans that apply to the entire Schengen area. This option already exists in Belgium, but once again, the maximum time limits in our law are much shorter than those permitted in Europe. We propose to maximise this to a standard of five years and 20 years for those who pose a danger to our public order. And life imprisonment for terrorists. I sincerely do not understand why this government does not want to take this step. Why does Belgium always have to be so nice? So meek. So soft...”

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