Belgian officials visit Morocco to discuss repatriation of illegal nationals

Belgian prime minister Alexander De Croo, along with three other ministers and several top officials, left for Morocco on Sunday afternoon. Their visit will focus on working out an agreement to facilitate the return of Moroccans living illegally in Belgium.

The issue is important in the run-up to the June elections. The far-right Vlaams Belang is polling as the number one party in Flanders, largely because of its anti-migrant rhetoric. Belgium is a popular destination for Moroccan migrants, but many live in the country illegally.

Of 12,000 detainees in Belgium's prisons, around 1,000 are Moroccan and six out of 10 have no right of residence, De Tijd writes on Tuesday, contributing to the continuing problem of overcrowded prisons.

Moreover, over the past 10 years, the majority of expulsion orders have been issued to Moroccans. The Moroccan government is unwilling to cooperate with returning its nationals and De Croo's two-day visit is an attempt to resolve this long-standing problem.

Culture, trade and politics

The prime minister is accompanied by Justice minister Paul Van Tigchelt, Interior minister Annelies Verlinden, Foreign minister Hadja Lahbib and state secretary for Asylum and Migration Nicole de Moor. In addition to the repatriation of Moroccans illegally in Belgium, they will discuss a number of issues such as culture, trade, politics, justice and migration.

Some 30 Belgian entrepreneurs are also travelling with the ministers. They will take part in a conference in Casablanca on Tuesday, aimed at strengthening trade relations. Construction companies such as Willemen and Besix and dredging companies Jan De Nul and DEME will be looking for opportunities related to the 2030 World Cup, which Morocco is partly hosting.


Prime minister Alexander De Croo arrives in Rabat © BELGA PHOTO HATIM KAGHAT

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