09 Feb 2018

Belgian protesters halt anti immigration proposal

The Belgian government has halted a bill allowing police to enter private homes of people sheltering immigrants, after the plan led to public outrage, protests, and questions raised by the Prime Minister's own party.

Marjan Justaert
Marjan Justaert De Standaard, Belgium
Source: De Standaard
Belgian protesters halt anti immigration proposal - NewsMavens
Prime Minister Charles Michel. Wikicommons

Why this story matters:

As more Belgian government officials show solidarity with unauthorized migrants (and people who offer them shelter), the government's bill on immigration home visits has become uncertain.

The decision to put the bill on hold proves that huge protests can impact lawmakers, even if there's already a consensus between center-right government parties. We've seen it in Belgium before: in a discussion about fiscal fairness, the government folded under public pressure.

It's a hopeful sign when protests about fundamental rights of undocumented refugees are respected. But above all, this is a sobering conclusion for Flemish nationalists who polarized the discussion by denouncing the "do-gooders" who shelter migrants.

immigration,politics, human rights,protests

PM Michel: 'I hear the comments being made'

  • For months now, hundreds of Belgian citizens have sheltered refugees and migrants in their homes.
  • Belgium's constitution prevents police from entering homes unless a major crime has been committed; sheltering an irregular migrant is not a crime.
  • The proposed bill would allow police to enter the homes of people suspected of helping migrants under orders to leave the country.
  • After a roar of criticism from non-governmental organizations, citizens and investigating judges, some politicians began to question the merit of the proposed home visits.
  • The protests led Prime Minister Charles Michel to put the legislation on hold and to schedule "consultations" - political jargon for an unspecified delay.
  • Within his own party, Michel has struggled to reconcile supporters and opponents of the domestic raids to kick out migrants. 
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