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City of Brussels promises more staff at Foreigners' Office
The City of Brussels has approved an action plan to reduce the waiting time for foreigners at its administative centre - including the immediate hiring of more staff.
City councillors have voted in favour of a range of measures including improvements to the online booking system, the introduction of afternoon appointments and simplifying some procedures for non-EU citizens.
The Bureau des Etrangers currently has 40 administrative workers and eight managers. According to city councillor Geoffroy Coomans de Brachène, it is common to see queues of up to 150 people waiting to get a ticket when the doors open in the morning.
In an average day, 225 people get seen, of whom half are EU citizens. In the short term, four more clerks will be hired, meaning more counters will be open to visitors.
The call centre will be reinforced and staff will undergo training in conflict management.
An impact assessment has been scheduled for November to see what effect the changes have on queuing times - and whether more measures need to be taken.
The improvements come after research by the business federation Agoria found the City of Brussels was failing to provide an adequate service to newly arrived expats, who face long delays, unfriendly staff and communication problems.
The research found 80% of respondents in the City of Brussels had encountered problems registering as a resident with Brussels city hall - compared with 68% in the wider Brussels region and 36% elsewhere in Belgium.
"Brussels presents itself as an international city and the city needs expats," said René Konings, head of Agoria Brussels. "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."
When The Bulletin surveyed its readers last 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".