Tech & Rights

Belgium's Asylum Policy According to Theo Francken: From Cynicism to Inhumanity

The mid-term policy note issued by the secretary of state for migration and asylum announces the return of undocumented families to detention centers and other items that form a clear step backwards for the protection of human rights.

by David Morelli
Secretary of State for Migration and Asylum Theo Francken presented his mid-term general policy note to the Parliamentary Committee on Wednesday, November 30, 2016.

This note, which announced that migrant families would return to detention centers generated an uproar among human rights and child rights organizations.

As part of Theo Francken's policy, it will possible in 2017 to detain children of all ages, inside what we should call a prison, only because their parents are undocumented.

Increasingly inhuman message

The Belgian League of Human Rights notes that, regarding human rights, the other parts of the policy note are as regressive as this measure.

This note sets new priorities: increasing integration, reducing administrative paperwork, reducing reception capacities, sending back more migrants. But the message is still the same: it is a cold, severe and mechanical one, and increasingly inhuman.

The first point of the note is about "rights, liberties, standards and European values." Theo Francken requires foreigners to declare that they recognize European values, which is the height of cynicism, as he himself is ignoring the human rights values of the EU, exemplified by his intention to send children to detention centers.

He is also ignoring the judgment of the European Court of Human Rights, as well as the judgment rendered last June by the Belgian Council of State, which said that detaining children (regardless of the detention conditions) constituted an inhuman and degrading treatment, which is contrary to the most fundamental principles of human dignity.

Secretary of State for Migration and Asylum Theo Francken's policy agenda for migration is inhuman and goes against the core values of the EU.

Having required foreign people to integrate into society (sending them the message that none of them is apparently respecting fundamental values), he is now welcoming obnoxious measures that aim to stop migrants at the borders of Europe and illegal letters that are being sent in order to discourage asylum seekers in their applications (especially those coming from Iraq).

Stoking xenophobia

If that is not bad enough, he is also promising to continue down this road by strengthening returns based on the Dublin Regulation, extending the list of so-called safe countries, providing experts to the newly created Frontex Agency, restarting "transfers" of migrant to Greece, etc.

As far as reception of migrants is concerned, he announced that he has reduced reception capacities and promised that he would keep pursuing this goal by giving preference to "collective reception," while we know that individual reception remains the best guarantee for a quality reception.

He also nourished the preconceived idea that migrants could be terrorists by explaining that he implemented specific training for the social workers working in reception centers: they are now trained to identify signs of radicalization. Of course, this is being done to the detriment of the relationship of trust that is required during social work.

Among all these problematic measures, we should also mention that he, once again, threatened that passengers who would oppose a violent removal of other individuals from an airplane would face criminal proceedings. Alongside this criminalization of solidarity, he promised to continue carrying out collective evictions through special flights, even though they are prohibited by international law.

Respect human dignity

This list of measures, far from being exhaustive, shows that his policy is dangerous and violates human rights.

The Belgian League of Human Rights reaffirms its opposition to this policy of fear, which is based on exclusion and rejection, and which is also illegal.

It is urgent to keep fundamental rights at the heart of migration policy, and to adopt a consistent asylum policy that is lawful and that respects human dignity.