Netherlands and Belgium sign declaration of intent to cooperate on migration

The Netherlands and Belgium will cooperate more closely and join forces more in the area if immigration and asylum. This is stated in the declaration of intent signed by Secretary of State Fred Teeven (Security and Justice) and his Belgium colleague Theo Francken (Asylum and Migration) at the Belgian embassy in the Hague on Tuesday afternoon.

Teeven and Francken will together raise the issue of the abuse of the so-called 'Europe route' with the European Commission. This shortcut helps Dutch people who want to bring their foreign partner to the Netherlands to circumvent the strict family reunion rules by going to live in Belgium with their partner for a short period of time, for example. Once they have lived in another European Member State for six months, they can then take their partner to the Netherlands by availing themselves of the right to free movement. “I feel the Europe route is an undesirable and unintended outcome of the directive”, comments Teeven who, as well as Francken, is of the view that the partner should only be able to return after spending two years in another Member State.

On Tuesday, the two government members also called on their European colleagues to play their part in the UNHCR resettlement program. It is via this program that the most vulnerable refugees in the refugee camps are selected and invited to come and live in the Netherlands, for example. Belgium invites 300 refugees per year, as opposed to 500 by the Netherlands. Both Teeven and Francken hope that the Member States that do not yet invite refuges will also soon accept their responsibility.

With regard to cooperation, Belgium and the Netherlands intend to exchange more experience and best practices at the shop-floor level. E.g. by also accrediting the Belgian liaison official of the Immigration Department (which decides on residence and return) based with the Dutch Immigration and Naturalization Service (IND) for the Return and Departure Service (DT&V). In addition, the two secretaries of state are enthusiastic about the EASO project that was launched yesterday under which they can learn about each other’s asylum procedures.

Furthermore, the countries will cooperate to a greater extent with regard to the Frontex flights, e.g. by keeping each other informed and taking part in each other’s flights. Moreover, Belgium and the Netherlands will exchange more data in order to tackle fraud. Both Teeven and Francken want to see visa liberalization linked to agreements on voluntary and forced return. This means that, if a country no longer wants to be subject to the visa requirement, it has to give assurances to take back illegal and rejected asylum nationals.

Secretary of State Francken has been in the Netherlands since Monday on a working visit to look at various aspects of the immigration process. On Monday, the two members of government paid a visit to the Closed Family Welfare Center in Zeist. Tuesday's schedule included a visit to the Immigration and Naturalization Service (IND) as well as the Repatriation and Departure Service (DT&V) in Rijswijk. The working visit will be completed by a visit to the azc asylum seekers' center in Eindhoven.