Elections 2024: Who should I vote for if I want changes in asylum policy?

In the run-up to the June elections, Belgium's political parties are staking out their positions on key issues. Today, we look at where they stand on asylum policy.

As one of the main migration channels into Belgium, asylum is a hotly debated topic in Belgian politics. Asylum policy, however, is not only a Belgian matter. It is also subject to European and International standards. The political debate therefore focuses mainly on the start of the procedure at the European external borders, reception and return policy after a rejection of an asylum request. Family reunification, for which the rules are set by the federal government, is also vigorously debated. 

Vlaams Belang, the far-right party in Flanders that makes asylum its biggest priority, no longer wants to abide by European rules and wants a stricter asylum policy. Asylum seekers must be accommodated in their own region and those who try to enter the EU illegally will lose all rights to protection.

In Belgium, they say the asylum procedure must be faster and all asylum seekers must be accommodated in collective centres, to which they must also contribute. Family reunification must be preceded by an integration exam and is subject to a high-income requirement.

Flemish nationalists N-VA also advocate a stricter asylum policy, demanding accommodation of asylum seekers in their own region and a tougher approach to people who enter the EU illegally.

Like Vlaams Belang, they say the asylum procedure in Belgium should be faster - a maximum of six months- and asylum seekers should be accommodated in collective centres. Those denied asylum should return to their own country, preferably voluntarily, but by force if necessary. The rules around family reunification should also be tightened.

Among the Flemish Christian democrats CD&V and liberals (Open VLD), the main focus is on faster asylum procedures in Belgium and a more efficient outflow of deported asylum seekers.

For example, police should be able to enter homes if there are illegal residents. In addition, both parties argue for better agreements with the countries of origin to better manage migration. Similarly, socialists Vooruit want to simplify and speed up the asylum procedure, including for cases already processed in neighbouring European countries and for people coming from a country considered safe. The party further advocates a stricter return policy, where anyone who has to return will be intensively monitored.

In general, the Flemish parties are in favour of tightening asylum policy to varying degrees. Only greens Groen and the far-left PVDA do not favour a tightening of the rules. Groen opposes pushback at Europe's external borders, wants a voluntary return policy and a relaxation of the rules on family reunification.

The PVDA also rejects strict controls at Europe's external borders. It wants to provide safe and legal procedures for refugees to come to Europe and wants to focus on integration. Both parties also demand that children and victims of human trafficking should no longer be detained. 

Francophone parties

On the Walloon side, few parties are in favour of tightening asylum policy. Ecolo, PS, DéFI, Les Engagés and PTB mainly see the benefit of focusing on a safer and more humane migration policy. They want an end to pushbacks, no detention of minors and other vulnerable asylum seekers and often a relaxation of the rules around family reunification.

In addition, integration policies are paramount. Liberals MR, by contrast, do want a tightening of rules and advocates, among other things, reception in the region of origin, better agreements with non-EU countries, more closed detention centres and a tightening of family reunification policy.

In the run-up to the elections for the federal, regional and European parliaments on 9 June, Belga English explains how the parties in Belgium want to address today’s challenges. Each day we put the spotlight on one issue.

The Toc Toc Nicole building, which was occupied in 2023 by about 70 asylum seekers © BELGA PHOTO JAMES ARTHUR GEKIERE

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