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Immigration issues fall within the competence of FPS Immigration and Asylum Policy and FPS Home Affairs. Legal immigration concerns several areas such as employment, education, family reunifications, etcetera. The Minister for Immigration and Asylum Policies advocates for the development of a legal (or economic) immigration system, particularly in order to mitigate the effects of the decrease in the working population, which is forecast to shrink by 23% in Belgium by the year 2050.
In order to repatriate persons residing illegally on Belgian territory and who often have no identity documents and/or travel documents, Belgium has concluded a number of return agreements, and is striving to conclude further such agreements, with the countries of origin, within the framework of both the Benelux partnership and the European Union.
FPS Foreign Affairs takes part in the negotiations on these agreements and supervises the procedure for their ratification by Parliament.
Persons present illegally on Belgian territory can choose between voluntary or forced repatriation, with or without police supervision. Of course, for this to be possible the countries of return must be prepared to readmit such persons once they have been identified as nationals of the relevant country, this while bearing in mind that in the vast majority of cases they have no travel or identity documents.
In order to facilitate the person’s return and the attendant formalities, such as identification and issuing of travel documents, efficient cooperation between the Belgian authorities and the diplomatic representation of the country concerned is essential. To this end, a number of agreements have been concluded between the three Benelux countries, namely Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg, and several other countries. The implementation protocols of these agreements harmonise the procedures leading to repatriation. More recently, the European Union has been given a mandate to conclude European-level return agreements, which would then replace the Benelux agreements.
European immigration policy
This policy is set out in the European Pact on Immigration and Asylum.
European Pact on Immigration and Asylum
On 15 and 16 October 2008, on the proposal of France, the European Council adopted the “European Pact on Immigration and Asylum”.
The text agreed by the EU Heads of State and Government expresses, at the highest political level, the commitment made by the European Union and its Member States, to their citizens as well as to third States, to develop a genuine common policy on immigration.
The Pact enshrines five clear commitments by Member States:
- organise legal immigration to take account of the priorities, needs and reception capacities determined by each Member State, and to encourage integration;
- control illegal immigration by ensuring that illegal immigrants return to their countries of origin or to a country of transit;
- make border controls more effective;
- construct a Europe of asylum;
- create a global partnership with the countries of origin and of transit in order to encourage synergy between migration and development.
Fight against human trafficking
Belgium attaches great importance to the fight against human trafficking and actively participates in efforts undertaken at the regional, international and global levels to gradually put an end to heinous practices which trample on human rights and human dignity.
National Action Plan
On 11 July 2008 the Belgian Government adopted an Action Plan for 2008-2011 setting out the aims and priorities of the struggle against human trafficking.
Office of the Interdepartmental Unit
Meeting on a monthly basis, the Office of Interdepartmental Unit coordinates the activities of the various departments and agencies working in this area, namely FPS Justice, FPS Foreign Affairs, the Federal Police, the Immigration Office, and the Centre for Equal Opportunities and Opposition to Racism.
Reception of victims
The following three specialised reception centres have been established for the victims of human trafficking. The centres provide shelter, guidance and counselling, healthcare services and legal aid.
Migration and development
Global Forum on Migration and Development (GFMD)
The Global Forum on Migration and Development (GFMD) was set up as an informal meeting place where issues connected with international migration and development could be considered systematically and comprehensively.
The idea of the GFMD was first put forward by the Secretary-General of the United Nations and his Special Representative on International Migration and Development at the UN High-Level Dialogue on International Migration and Development in September 2006. Many UN member states wanted the Forum to function as an informal structure run by governments on a voluntary basis, openly and transparently, without producing any negotiated outcomes or regulatory decisions.
The first GFMD was organised by the Belgian Government in July 2007. Its objective was to deepen policymakers’ understanding, by improving dialogue and strengthening partnerships, of the opportunities and challenges that migration raises for development and vice versa. It also aimed to identify practical measures focused on action to address these opportunities and challenges and make such measures operational at the national, regional and global levels. The meeting brought together some 800 delegates from more than 140 UN member states.
Since then, Belgium has been an active participant in the Forum, which takes place annually.
Funding projects relating to international migration and development
These projects which are, for the most part proposed and implemented by the International Organization for Migration (IOM), are funded by Belgian Development Cooperation.