A law aimed at giving illegal immigrants resident status in Belgium came into effect yesterday, but it failed to produce the vast numbers expected at the doors of local town halls.
The move, which was delayed by more than a year because of political wrangling, is seen as a solution to the humanitarian problem of thousands of migrants who have been working illegally in the country. But critics say qualification for residency is too restrictive, including the need to show contracts from employers who refuse to give them, preferring to pay on an ad hoc, cash basis only. Campaigns by migrants – including occupying churches and going on hunger strikes – have highlighted their plight. Those who have made their homes in Belgium need to regularise their status in order to access Belgium’s healthcare system and provide an education for their children.