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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 17 January 2019

Belgium ends virtual ban on asylum applications from single men

Liberal politician Maggie De Block announced a reversal of her right-wing predecessor’s policy

Belgian Minister of Health, Social Affairs, Asylum Policy and Migration Maggie De Block. AFP
Belgian Minister of Health, Social Affairs, Asylum Policy and Migration Maggie De Block. AFP

Belgium’s newly appointed migration minister Maggie De Block has announced she will be lifting a virtual ban on asylum applications by single men.

Last month Maggie De Block’s predecessor Theo Francken from the right wing New Flemish Alliance (N-VA) imposed a limit of 60 on the number of asylum requests authorities could deal with a day.

Belgian refugee charities said the policy meant those considered to be vulnerable were prioritised resulting in many single men being turned away, left to sleep on the streets.

"Single men must also be able to apply for asylum," Ms De Block said on Thursday, adding that the policy had meant only applications from women and children were being processed.

Ms De Block is a liberal politician from the ruling Open VLD party. She took on the asylum portfolio in addition to her role as Health Minister following the breakdown of the Open VLD and N-VA coalition government over an international migration pact.

Ms De Block said Mr Francken’s policy had shown a “lack of humanity” and said her first step would be to reverse it.

"That was not the right measure,” she said in remarks published by Belgian website Bruzz on Thursday. “That is why, in consultation with the Immigration Department (DVZ) and Fedasil, I decided not to apply this anymore. I do not want to detract from the previous policy, but a new quota will certainly not come."

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A controversial figure in Belgian politics, Mr Francken was appointed as state secretary for asylum and migration in 2014 and since then has overseen numerous policies designed to curb immigration.

He led the N-VA out of the four party Belgian coalition on Saturday after Belgian prime minister Charles Michel declared his government’s support for a United Nations pact on migration.

Mr Michel signed the pact on Monday in Marrakesh declaring that Belgium would “be on the right side of history”. He was forced to reshuffle his ministers and plans to rule as minority government until elections in May.

The UN pact, which declares that no country can address migration alone, caused a lot of debate in Europe and was opposed by the governments of Austria, Bulgaria, Poland, Hungary, Czech Republic and Switzerland.

Updated: December 13, 2018 04:52 PM

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