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Belgium sends ‘burden’ EU citizens letters asking them to leave the country

Belgium sends ‘burden’ EU citizens letters asking them to leave the country
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Some 2,712 citizens of other EU countries have been asked to leave Belgium for being an unreasonable burden on the welfare system.

The number of people being told to go has more than tripled in three years.

Even having a job is not enough to be allowed to stay, as is the case with Italian accordion player Silvia Gurria, who has lived in Brussels for three years. Gurria has an integration work contract and 30 percent of her salary is funded by the state.

“When you receive an eviction notice, you cannot work, you don’t have an identity because they take away your identity card. So you don’t qualify for, and can’t access, a range of administrative benefits and activities. I think we should denounce this situation,” said Gurria.

According to the 2004 European directive on the free movement of workers: “Persons exercising their right of residence should not, however, become an unreasonable burden on the social assistance system of the host member State during an initial period of residence.” This gives EU member countries the right to expel EU citizens.

Those asked to leave include people who have lost their jobs and students no longer studying.

“It is not particulary severe. It’s just, it’s reasonable and it’s in keeping with European legislation. Even if there are currently a large number of people whose stays have been refused, the law entitles us to make these decisions. So I think we have correctly and objectively applied European and national legislation,” said Dominique Ernould from the Belgian Office for Foreigners.

Most of the notices have been sent to Romanians and Bulgarians. Third and fourth are people from Spain and Italy respectively.

“You have the right to go to another EU country and stay there for up to three months without any obligations and also without any rights to claim benefits during these three months. Up to six months, you can stay only if you really can prove that you are looking for a job actively in this other EU state. And afterwards you cannot stay unless you have the financial means to support yourself and you have comprehensive sickness insurance,” spokesperson for the European Commission Mina Andreeva told euronews.