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The Belgian minister who offered asylum to Puigdemont unleashes a storm in his government for repatriating Sudanese

Several of those expelled have suffered torture when they returned to their country. The voices that claim the resignation of Theo Francken grow

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The Belgian minister who offered asylum to Puigdemont unleashes a storm in his government for repatriating Sudanese

The Belgian government is staggered by a dark episode of immigration policy. The Minister of Migration, Theo Francken, lives more and more in corner for allowing deportation of a dozen Sudanese who suffered torture when y returned to African country. Paradoxically, Francken, representative of hard wing of Flemish nationalist Party N-VA, propitiated se expulsions almost while offering political asylum to Carles Puigdemont. Although he finally did not opt for that way, former president fled to Belgium only one day after head of migration in Belgian executive launched that Órdago to Spanish government.

Both gestures — both public suggestion that Puigdemont could receive refugee status and defense of an agreement with Sudanese dictatorship to repatriate migrants to Belgium — have put government of that country in dire straits. The federal executive operates through a delicate balance between four political forces, with N-VA as hegemonic, although prime minister, Charles Michel, is a French-speaking liberal. The enormous hardness exhibited by Francken, one of most prominent values of Flemish nationalism, towards asylum seekers contrasts with complacency shown towards Puigdemont.

The highest authority in immigration policy — he is secretary of state with rank of Minister — he expressed doubts about possibility of Catalan ex-president having a fair trial in Spain, but he did not hesitate to encourage repatriations to Sudan, whose president, Omar al Dr Bashir, you are charged with war crimes by International Criminal Court. Francken received in September a political delegation from Khartoum for its members to identify ir Sudanese compatriots and accept expulsions ordered by Belgium. Following se deals, several organizations, including Tahrir Institute, documented ill-treatment of expelled. These missions constitute a common practice of European countries to promote return of migrants without right to asylum, in a context that preserves evictions from reception. But any decision to deport must comply with basic principles. The foreigner shall have right to seek protection and returning State shall ensure that expelled is not at risk of degrading treatment.

Belgium fails

Belgium, according to courts, has breached this last criterion. A car of Brussels Court of Appeal has just found that detention in closed centre of one of Sudanese who are threatened with expulsion "is not in conformity with legal requirements", in particular "information on particularly alarming situation of Sudan, "says text, dated 4 January and accessed by country. Luc Denys, an expert in this field, adds: "The Belgian state has not complied with article 3 of European Convention on Human Rights, which prohibits torture or inhuman or degrading treatment."

The authorities have at moment stopped any deportation of Sudanese until end of open investigation to clean up responsibilities. But political storm raging. Faced with growing voices calling for resignation of Francken by a ruthless policy whose last example is Sudanese episode, leader of party, Bart de Wever, has launched an ultimatum: "If majority asks for resignation of Francken, N-VA is withdrawn from government". Meanwhile, anor government partner, CD V (Flemish conservatives), has accused prime minister of becoming " puppet of N-VA" for allowing this immigration policy.

Aware of risk of dissolution of government that would impose departure of most voted party in Belgium, Charles Michel tries to stop coup. The Liberal leader has assured this Monday not to feel "intimidated by blackmail, threats and provocations" and has nuanced that open investigation to clarify deportations of Sudanese does not directly question Francken. Neverless, actions of this nationalist leader re-sow discord in Belgian government after tensions generated in recent months by position of party in general — and Francken in particular — regarding Catalan conflict.

Brussels encourages return missions

Belgium is not only country that invites authorities of territories from which migrants come to cooperate in returns. France has also hosted Sudan's missions to encourage departure of native citizens from that African state. With a return rate that does not reach 40% of foreigners with a deportation order, European Union is determined to intensify this policy to focus on addressing and integrating refugees at cost of closing way for so-called economic migrants. The borders between two groups are, in spite of everything, more than vague.

To expedite se work, Border Protection Agency, Frontex, has incorporated this task into its list of functions. At beginning of 2017, European Commission reported that Frontex experts "should organise identification missions from key third countries, with participating authorities [willing] to issue travel documents during missions or Immediately afterwards. " One of great challenges of returns is that country of origin or transit of migrant accepts return from European state to which it has arrived. The missions intend to pave that path, with untransparent agreements.

Although Frontex is supportive, responsibility for se operations lies with Member States, which are ultimately responsible for migration policy. Any return must be made after offering abroad possibility of seeking asylum and once verified that return to its State of origin does not entail a risk to its integrity. These two conditions are not always fulfilled.


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