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Theo Francken: “Vivaldi’s open-door policy is causing the asylum chaos”
Hundreds of asylum seekers have been waiting in vain for accommodation at the gates of the Petit-Château for days now. “This is utter chaos, and the Vivaldi government has only itself to blame. A welcoming policy is being pursued, as a result of which nothing is going right now, with thousands of court judgements to boot. I will therefore continue to argue for a drastically different policy, one that focuses on strong dissuasion and repatriation.” That was MP Theo Francken’s response on the radio show De Ochtend.
Daily court judgements, increasing penalty payments, chaos at the asylum gates, an administration that has completely run out of steam, a lack of reception places, etc. It is not a pretty picture of the current asylum policy. “That is the result of the political choices that this federal government is making. They are pursuing an open-door policy. Maximum efforts are being made to integrate asylum seekers quickly, there is a very flexible arrangement for family reunification and asylum seekers are accommodated in houses instead of in collective centres. This gives them the impression that Belgium is the ideal country. So they come here en masse. Belgium is now the second country of asylum in Europe in terms of destination”, says Theo Francken.
And that is all because this government mainly wants to pursue an “anti-Francken and anti-N-VA policy” on asylum and migration. “Citizens in Flanders sent a clear signal in 2019: they wanted a right-wing course with a critical migration policy that opposes illegal migration. And what did they get? A policy that does exactly the opposite: a naive welcoming policy that makes everything go wrong,” says Theo Francken.
Hallucinatory reception budgets
The extra reception places that State Secretary de Moor wants to create will not bring any relief, according to Francken: “This is a structural problem. Meanwhile, more than 500 staff members are already working in the asylum services and more are to be recruited. Record amounts are being spent on reception - up to EUR 700 million this year alone. Those are hallucinatory figures. Additional reception locations will not solve this.”
According to State Secretary de Moor, the lack of reception places is a consequence of the cutbacks that Francken implemented as State Secretary at the time, but he resolutely dismisses that criticism: “That doesn’t make sense. People keep using those excuses. I was able to cope with the European asylum crisis by providing enough places. I cut those temporary places because there was no longer a backlog. It was a backlog that I cleared with much less budget and less staff, but with a transparent and unambiguous policy, including drastic dissuasion campaigns. And I have never had a court judgement against me.”
This strong dissuasion is one of the policy pillars advocated by Theo Francken. “I put a ten-point plan on the table last year with very concrete proposals. I have cast them all into legislative proposals. Each and every one of them has been voted out by this government, including by Mrs de Moor’s party.”