A first attempt by State Secretary for Asylum and Migration Sammy Mahdi (CD&V) to move the return policy for asylum seekers who have exhausted all legal remedies met with a failure from the Greens and the PS. The liberals and Vooruit are with us.
Asylum and Migration is an exceptionally important department for CD&V. In the previous governments, Maggie De Block (Open VLD) and Theo Francken (N-VA) grew into political stars because of their burly communication. For a party that still scores 10 percent in the polls, it is therefore crucial that Sammy Mahdi can score with both communication and realizations. Because the painful reality is still that at most two out of ten asylum seekers who have exhausted all legal remedies actually leave the country if they are ordered to do so. Vlaams Belang does not stop emphasizing that. And according to Francken, a solid asylum policy is only possible by not granting asylum in the event of illegal migration.
For the MR and Vooruit, Sammy Mahdi even goes a bit too far if he wants to enshrine the ban on locking up children in the law.
Mahdi is therefore in a difficult position. In order to achieve results, he needs to get the greens on board, who in the previous legislature opposed proposals such as locking children up in detention centers or entering residences to arrest failed people who refuse to leave. The framing in which the law on residential entry in the previous legislature ended up, as if people who give shelter to illegal immigrants themselves would be arrested, even made the MR of Prime Minister Charles Michel gasp in 2018. The bill of the N-VA and CD&V was withdrawn.
In recent months Mahdi has been working in relative silence on a package of measures to make the return policy more effective through a ‘clamping policy’ without bruising the Greens. Through regional centers to be established, the municipalities would be relieved of the burden of monitoring and supervising asylum seekers who have exhausted all legal remedies. Mahdi was even willing to enshrine the ban on incarcerating children in order to appease the Greens. But he did come to the conclusion that moving into a home should be the very last resort if someone has repeatedly manifestly refused to cooperate with a return.
Trying to smuggle problematic Swedish proposals through the back door into Vivaldi under the guise of a ‘clingy’ policy? No thanks.
According to Mahdi, the coalition agreement also offers that margin. It literally states that measures can be taken to enable the repatriation of those who refuse to cooperate. The plan was to discuss this in all serenity with the top of the federal government on Friday morning. But the serenity was punctured by a leak in Het Laatste Nieuws. Less than two hours after the publication, Groen chairwoman Meyrem Almaci and Ecolo deputy prime minister Georges Gilkinet fired it off. ‘Try to smuggle problematic Swedish proposals through the back door into Vivaldi under the guise of ‘adherent’ policy? No thanks,” Almaci tweeted. At noon, PS Deputy Prime Minister Pierre-Yves Dermagne also followed.
That makes it four against three in the Vivaldi coalition. Open VLD, the MR and Vooruit are on board with CD&V. In fact, the French-speaking liberals and the Flemish socialists believe that Mahdi is going a bit too far with enshrining the ban on detaining children in law. “Separating children from their parents is also a bad option.”
According to the spokesman for Prime Minister De Croo (Open VLD), the discussion at the core cabinet was constructive, despite the stern statements on Twitter. “Talks continue.” In the coalition, however, the Greens are not expected to give in yet. Due to the recent headscarf row with Georges-Louis Bouchez (MR), migration themes are once again in a political pressure cooker.