Increase in migrants working in Belgium
An increasing number of migrants are working in Belgium, although the country's job market remains "one of the tightest in Europe". The figures were published on Tuesday by the federal migration centre Myria.
Compared to 2021, 46 per cent more long-stay visas and 75 per cent more combined permits were granted to people from third countries last year. Myria is therefore calling for "more guarantees" to imrpvothe rights of migrant workers.
In 2022, Belgium granted a total of 8,098 long-stay visas for professional reasons to third-country nationals, most of whom came from India (23 per cent), Turkey (15 per cent), Morocco (6 per cent) and Tunisia (5 per cent). This is a 46 per cent increase on 2021. In addition, 19,724 single permits with a maximum duration of 90 days were issued, a 75 per cent increase.
The increase "must now be accompanied by additional guarantees for workers"
Myria says these permits are increasingly applied for by workers filling bottleneck jobs and by workers subject to labour market screening. It says this increase "must now be accompanied by additional guarantees for workers" and that third-country nationals are more vulnerable to exploitation than posted EU citizens and need more legal protection.
Earlier this year, based on Myria's previous update, financial newspaper De Tijd reported that migrants were finding it increasingly difficult to open basic bank accounts. Dozens of people complained to Myria, equal opportunities centre Unia and other organisations about problems opening an account last year. Myria and Unia have seen the number of complaints increase each year, from 11 in 2018 to 41 last year - but fear there are many more unreported cases.
"Banks are not allowed to simply refuse basic banking services. But we see it happening in practice"
Margot De Vuyst, who coordinated the Myria report, said that "banks often refuse verbally, leaving no evidence of the refusal". A refusal creates practical problems, as workers cannot have their salaries deposited or pay bills. "Banks are not allowed to simply refuse basic banking services. But we see it happening in practice," De Vuyst said.
© BELGA PHOTO THIERRY ROGE