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Belgium’s coronavirus travel restrictions are illegal, says ‘Love Is Not Tourism’ group
Love should be able to flourish across borders – even if one partner lives outside the European Union (EU) and the other does not, the international collective ‘Love Is Not Tourism’ has announced.
The organisation represents couples in long-distance relationships now separated by frontiers following Covid-19 measures. It says it will ask Belgium’s council of state, its supreme administrative court, to “suspend urgently” its travel restrictions to non-EU countries, following an unsuccessful meeting with social affairs minister Maggie de Block earlier this month.
“This is not just about a summer holiday, it is about mental health and the future of people all around the world,” the collective says on its website. It demands to “allow the unbureaucratic and safe reunion of partners in long-distance relationships as well as family members.” In short, for ‘Love Is Not Tourism’, seeing your loved one is “essential travel”.
Moreover, recent government decisions are illegal, says the group. Many principles of good governance have gone by the wayside, it says, also pointing the finger of blame at interior minister Pieter De Crem.
The group’s demands follow the announcement by the National Security Council (CNS – Conseil National de Sécurité) that EU/non-EU couples can see each other from 1 September, but only if they can prove the durability of their relationship.
They must have lived together in Belgium or abroad for at least a year; or known each other for at least two years, providing proof that they have had regular contact (through letters, emails or photos). Other ways to continue seeing your partner are to show you have met at least three times in the two years before the restrictions were imposed; that these visits lasted at least 45 days; or that you have a child together.
However, speaking for ‘Love Is Not Tourism’ following the CNS meeting, lawyer Tina Merckx says that this list of exceptions has never been set in stone in a ministerial decree. In fact, it has been taken from the asylum law and its measures should not apply to someone in love who wants to come to Belgium just to see their partner for a short period, she adds.
For collective coordinator Pablo Prado, the conditions are also discriminatory. “If the conditions were less strict, we could support a larger group of people. As it is, some of them still have not seen their partner in six months.”