Tech & Rights

The Belgian Government Continues to Criminalize Foreigners

The House of Representatives is prepared to vote on two bills that, under the pretext of maintaining law and order and ensuring national security, will severely restrict the rights of foreigners.

by David Morelli
The two bills aim to “conduct a more coherent, transparent and effective policy on removal and return. The series of changes under the bills should allow to implement more easily and quickly appropriate measures when the public order or national security are at risk, while complying with the fundamental rights of people concerned." The bills would also implement new ways of withdrawing residence permits and fewer safeguards regarding detention and eviction.

False pretext

According the NGO CIRÉ (Coordination and Initiatives for Refugees and Foreigners) and the Belgian League of Human Rights, these measures are, on the contrary, not very transparent and violate the rights of foreigners. We agree that it is necessary to fight against terrorism and criminality, but this is not the bills’ purpose.

In fact, the bills aim to place foreigners, once again, under widespread suspicion and to restrict their fundamental rights by allowing the authorities to implement exceptional measures more easily.

Under the pretext of wanting to ensure "public order and national security," the bills provide for the possibility of withdrawing the residence permit of foreigners (including European nationals) who may have spent their entire life in Belgium, deporting them to their country of origin and denying them entry on our territory, even if they have never been convicted by a criminal court. In certain situations, the bills even provide the removal of the suspensive effect in case of an appeal against the expulsion decision.

Criminalizing foreigners

The measures provided by these two bills are discriminatory and constitute a flagrant violation to freedom, mainly because they do not establish precisely what a "danger for the public order or national security" is. The power of appreciation that is given to the minister of the Aliens Office is therefore significant.

In addition, there is a high risk of arbitrariness: what criteria will be used to define what constitutes a danger for the public order or national security? What will be considered as “fraud”? What do the “indicators” of danger mean?

There are only a few cases of foreigners committing terrorist actions or very serious wrongful actions. Under the pretext of wanting to deport more easily these people, the government is implementing more repressive measures that will negatively affect all foreigners.

These measures are on the rise and always come with a discourse that criminalizes foreigners, combining repetitively terms such as "foreigners," "illegal," "criminal" and sometimes "terrorist."

By voting in favor of these bills, the government gives the green light to legal uncertainty regarding right of residence and expulsions. Once again, the legal guarantees of refugee rights, which are already weak, will be further restricted by the government.