Non-EU migrants and refugees wishing to live in Belgium will have to sign a statement declaring their acceptance of local values or see their residency claim rejected, a government official said, in a move campaigners fear will fuel anti-immigrant sentiment.
Parliament is expected to pass the proposal to introduce a “newcomers’ statement” in the next few months, according to a spokesman for Belgium’s secretary of state for asylum and migration, Theo Francken, who drafted the plan.
People moving to Belgium for more than three months would have to sign the statement which includes a pledge to prevent and report any attempts to commit “acts of terrorism”.
The statement would not apply to asylum seekers and students, the spokesman said.
“[Many people] are coming [to Belgium] from countries with other values,” said Francken’s spokesman Laurent Mutambayi.
“If they want to build their life here in Europe [we have] no problem with that but they have to sign this statement that they accept our values,” he added.
Mutambayi said those who are not deemed to be integrating sufficiently will not be allowed to stay in the country.
One of the Belgian organisations working with migrants criticised the proposal, saying it was discriminatory and would fuel prejudice towards migrants.
“It’s an extra tool for the immigration office to keep some people out of Belgium,” said Didier Vanderslycke from Orbit, an organisation working on diversity and migration.
“The integration process can start when you have the residence and not when you sign a document that you will integrate. It’s really a bad thing as a welcome for people,” he said.
He said making would-be residents sign a declaration accepting gay rights or equality between men and women suggested that these values were not held by immigrants, and would deepen prejudice against them.
Tensions are already running high in Belgium following last month’s suicide attacks on Brussels airport and a metro train in which 35 people died.
Extreme-right groups have threatened attacks in the Molenbeek neighbourhood in the city on Saturday and community leaders fear its predominantly Muslim young people will fight back.
“They don’t trust the police and they aren’t going to take it,” said Fouad Ben Abdelkader, a teacher in the neighbourhood.
Last Sunday hundreds of black-clad demonstrators shouting Nazi slogans disrupted a memorial at Brussels’ Bourse square for the victims of the 22 March suicide attacks.
This time, a relatively unknown Belgian group has pledged to “expel the Islamists” and police warn that extreme-right activists are believed to be converging on Molenbeek from around Europe, even though police banned the scheduled protest and any counter protests in the city as soon as it was announced, largely in reaction to the unrest last week.
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