The Belgian government has announced an agreement over new rules for dealing with illegal immigrants.
The issue has sharply divided the country’s ruling coalition over the last two years and it took a long night of negotiation to reach agreement. There will be no mass amnesty for those living in Belgium without residency permits, but applications will be treated with on a case-by-case basis. Phillippe Courard of the Belgian Government said they would accommodate people who had integrated into villages and towns, those who had make links with society, those who had children for several years in schools. A new circular sets out the precise conditions under which residency permits can be given. Among those who can expect a favourable outcome: long-term residents, parents of Belgian children, parents of children at school, those with work contracts and those whose applications have taken an excessive amount of time. Lawyers for the immigrants expressed a cautious welcome. Alexis Deswaef said: “You can say that for the first time a legal framework has been established. There are rules, there are precise criteria so that those without residency papers can live in dignity and come out of the shadows.” Some 500 illegal immigrants have occupied a building in Place St Lazare for the past two months. Schools and universities have also been occupied by pressure groups seeking progress on the issue.