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Francken is ‘Flemish Trump’, says New York Times

17:02 11/01/2018

One of the world’s leading newspapers, The New York Times, has referred to Belgian migration secretary Theo Francken as “the Flemish Trump”. The remark follows a recent reference in The Washington Post to Francken (N-VA) as “an anti-immigration hardliner” in an article about Brussels’ Great Mosque.

Francken (pictured) took to Twitter to criticise both papers, posting an TV interview with VRT from the N-VA’s New Year’s reception last week in Koksijde in which he said: “I am not anti-immigration. I never have been. I am not an ‘anti-immigration hardliner’. I am for a controlled immigration policy. We are a hospital people, and a hospital country, and we need to stay that way.”

The Times piece was focusing on the controversy surrounding the nine Sudanese migrants sent back to their country by Belgian officials last year. “In September, Francken apologised for using the term ‘cleaning up’ about a police operation in which several undocumented immigrants were arrested,” the Times wrote. “Supporters and critics alike have called Mr Francken ‘the Flemish Trump’.”

Call for resignation

Opposition parties continue to call for Francken’s resignation in the face of the accusations that he acted inappropriately last summer when Sudanese officials were allowed to question migrants from Sudan – a known dictatorship – in Brussels’ Maximilian Park.

Reports suggest that at least three of the nine repatriated migrants were tortured by Sudanese officials. The country’s reputation for human rights abuses was cited by critics as being a crucial reason to not have allowed Sudanese officials to identify migrants in Brussels and for not repatriating them.

In related news, a court in Brussels ruled yesterday that a Sudanese migrant housed in an asylum detention centre in Flemish Brabant must be released. RTBF reports that this was against Francken’s advice. The man’s lawyer argued that, as the question of Sudanese migrants being repatriated is unclear, it would not happen soon, and it was not fair to keep him locked up. The court agreed.

Photo: Benoit Doppagne/BELGA

Written by Lisa Bradshaw