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Brussels-City administration is failing expats, report finds
The City of Brussels is failing to provide an adequate service to newly arrived expats, who face long delays, unfriendly staff and communication problems, according to new research by the business federation Agoria.
The organisation asked foreign workers from its member companies to tell all about their experience dealing with the Belgian municipal administration - and there was one commune which scored much, much worse than the others.
The Agoria research found 80% of respondents in the City of Brussels had encountered problems registering as a resident with the town hall - compared with 68% in the wider Brussels region and 36% elsewhere in Belgium.
Eight out of 10 respondents living outside the Brussels region were satisfied with their first contact with their commune. Six out of 10 people living in the Brussels region were happy - but just 4.5 out of 10 in the City of Brussels itself.
"Brussels-City is failing the grade, and it's expats who have to suffer the consequences," said René Konings, head of Agoria Brussels. "Brussels presents itself as an international city and the city needs expats. There are people we cannot easily find on the Belgian labour market. They come from all over the world but they are not welcomed."
An Indian engineer on a five-month posting to Belgium had to go through the registration procedure twice after details of the police residency check were lost. An American respondent, who lived on Avenue Louise, first approached Ixelles town hall before realising his address fell within the City of Brussels. A first email to the commune went unanswered for three weeks and the registration procedure took more than three months.
Konings added: "There is no reason why the City of Brussels should be worse than other communes. It's just a question of good organisation and good management."
More than half of respondents in Brussels-City experienced language and communication problems dealing with the city administration. A similar number had to wait more than a fortnight for a police officer to carry out the mandatory residency check at their home, and more than three months for their residency card to be issued.
The Agoria research found expats in the City of Brussels were unlikely to recommend the commune to others, because of their bad administrative experience. Only a quarter said they would recommend settling there, compared with more than 95% elsewhere.
"Most expats feel welcome in their municipalities," Konings said. "It's only our capital city that has a poor reputation - and that undermines its economic attractiveness."
When The Bulletin surveyed its readers earlier this year about their commune, the service at Brussels city hall was a reccurring complaint, described variously as "a vortex of negative energy", "disorganised and disrespectful", "the most ridiculous organisation I’ve ever had the misfortune of dealing with", "inefficient, lazy, too crowded" and "simply awful".
A few readers defended it, however, saying things have improved with the introduction of an online appointment system.