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Belgium issued 25,000 deportation notices last year

09:20 19/10/2023

Belgium issued 25,000 deportation orders last year to people living illegally in the country, according to figures from the immigration department.

Thousands of deportation notices are sent out monthly, but the number of people who actually abide by the order and voluntarily leave the country is much lower.

Figures indicate that in 2022, just 7,410 of the 25,292 people who received an order to leave the territory actually did so.

There were more than 2,900 forced departures and 2,673 voluntary ones that year – the remaining number mainly involves expulsions at the Belgian border.

The figures were shared in the context of the shooting of two Swedish football fans in Brussels this week. The perpetrator was a Tunisian living in Belgium illegally.

The 45-year-old Abdesalem L., who shot two people and was briefly at large before being killed in a shootout with police, was ordered to leave Belgium in 2021. He had applied for refugee status the year before and was rejected.

People seeking international protection in Belgium have several procedures to oppose a refusal by the Belgian authorities before a deportation order is issued.

The fact that Abdesalem was able to remain in the country for so long after being ordered to leave has sparked political outrage, notably from Bernard Clerfayt (DéFI), mayor of Schaerbeek where Abdesalem was illegally residing.

“The presence of the terrorist in Belgium and in Schaerbeek was known to the [immigration office], but was never communicated to the municipality or its local police department,” Clerfayt said on social media, where he published a call for the resignation of Belgium’s migration minister Nicole de Moor (CD&V).

“There are failings in the registration of asylum seekers, in the transmission of information to the local authorities and in the monitoring of dangerous people by the [immigration office]. These failings are all the responsibility of the federal government.”

Clerfayt cited the figures regarding deportation notices in his argument, saying that a solution is needed for their ineffectiveness.

“If we are unable to carry out an order to leave the country, let's give these people temporary status,” Clerfayt proposed. “This will allow us to keep track of them and, if there is a problem, to go and find them.”

Written by Helen Lyons