Children of Palestinian parents risk losing Belgian nationality

The Belgian Immigration Office has asked dozens of municipalities to revoke the Belgian nationality of children born in Belgium to Palestinian parents, De Tijd and L'Echo report.

Since August, several municipalities have received letters with this request. Some municipalities informed families that their child would lose their Belgian nationality, multiple sources confirmed to the newspapers.

The families had invoked a law that grants Belgian nationality to children who otherwise risk becoming stateless. This provision does not apply if the child can obtain another nationality, such as Palestinian, through their parents.

The Immigration Office believes that some municipalities have been too flexible in applying this procedure, granting Belgian nationality in cases where the parents may have had documents proving their nationality. 

Family reunification

It is not clear how many families were affected. Most of the letters were sent to the city of Antwerp, but municipalities in Liège, Brussels, Limburg and East Flanders also received some. 

The office of state secretary for Asylum and Migration Nicole De Moor responded that the Immigration Office is not ally asking municipalities to revoke granted nationalities, but rather to inform them when they find passports indicating a nationality in parents' files.

"The Immigration Office has regularly noted that Palestinians in the EU go to Belgium to have children with the aim of obtaining Belgian citizenship and thus benefiting from family reunification," said Bart Tierens, spokesperson for De Moor. 

'Not in the interest of the child'

Joke Callewaert, a lawyer with the Progress Lawyers Network, said she had noticed concern among the Palestinian community. "People whose right of residence depends on the child's Belgian nationality would become undocumented because the government wants to close a migration channel. This is not in the interest of the child," she said.

Callewaert said Belgian jurisprudence was not clear on whether Palestinian nationality exists. "Some courts rule that it does, others that it does not because Palestine does not meet the international characteristics of a state," she told De Tijd.

The issue is particularly sensitive in the context of the war in Gaza, as returning home is not an option for Palestinians. De Moor's office insisted that there was no connection between the two issues, as the Immigration Office had begun sending the letters long before the conflict began.


A demonstration in solidarity with Palestine in Brussels on 11 November 2023 © BELGA PHOTO TIMON RAMBOER

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