L’Office des étrangers (Belgian Immigration Service): The border guard of Europe?

27/02/2017: Little Belgium has a Secretary of State for migration, Mr Theo Francken, and an Immigration Service (the Office des Étrangers or OE), which follows his orders. The OE is the key institution with regard to the exclusion and deportation of migrants.


This is a state within a state, characterised by abuse of power, scorn for legal judgments and civil liberties, which circumvents the law and keeps proposing more repressive laws.

A new stage has just been reached – on 9 February 2017, Theo Francken issued a new law which aims toestablish “a more coherent, transparent and efficient policy for deportation” in order to detain and deport any foreigner or descendant of a foreigner resident in Belgium, who is viewed by the OE as a danger for security or public order, without the authorisation of a legal court.

Two days ago, Theo Francken threatened lawyers with a new legislative project that aims to punish ‘abuses’ in immigration procedures while in practice lawyers have to struggle on a daily basis to ensure that the law is respected.

At Brussels International airport (at Zaventem), the police needs no law to arrest coloured people in transit, preventing them from catching their onward flights, casting doubts on visas or passports delivered by consulates or embassies, residency cards from Schengen countries and even the relationships of parents and their children.

Every day, we receive numerous testimonies of people arrested at the airport and detained in the Caricole detention centre on the base of “suspicion of false documentation”.

In transit

They are very often transiting through Zaventem airport to catch an onward flight with a passport, visa and all the administrative documents required by the country they are going to. OE agents are present at the embarking desk and stop them from getting on board with incredible pretexts or excuses – a visa or a passport which does not seem the right one, a hotel room canceled or not reserved… This was the case for a man who had made a reservation in his country of destination – the policeman called the hotel, canceled the reservation and arrested the man because his reservation was canceled!

A top young African athlete was invited by a sports club and a Belgian minister. The police officers declared that her visa was not in order – despite appeals she was deported under escort!

Asylum request

Some people request asylum at the airport. They are immediately arrested and imprisoned in the Caricole detention centre. Once detained, they are supposed to collect proofs of the danger or persecution they fled from and find a lawyer in order to lodge an asylum request. Of course, most of the time the CGRA or OE declare that the proofs gathered are not true (“the original is missing”…).

The asylum request lodged by a young homosexual woman with a warrant for her arrest in her home country for her homosexuality was deported because there is no proof she is homosexual. After four months of detention in Caricole, she has obviously been detained once back in her country (for up to five years, according to local law). There is no news from her.

Another young woman fleeing a forced marriage and persecution by her husband’s family was deported back to her country. The OE declaresd that “forced marriages no longer exist in her country”. She wrote to us: “ I have arrived safely but I have to hide”

When a man from West Sahara who had been granted a five-year asylum went to the OE to renew it, he was detained and deported. When he arrived in Casablanca he was arrested and sent to prison, a friend told us.

A man detained in the Caricole told us: “Two persons went to court this morning. Only one hour after their return to the detention centre, they were told that the decision was negative. Is it worth going to court?”

Residency cards

For International Airport Police officers, coloured people are easy targets. They arrest them, refusing to accept their residency cards from Schengen countries where they have been living for years and where they generally have work and families. Often they are detained for months with several attempts to deport them to their “country of origin” before they are released to go back to their country of residence.


A woman, mother of four with a French residency card was detained for weeks until a DNA test proved that the children were really hers.

Mr Francken and his service, the Office des Étrangers (OE), claim the right to arrest, detain and deport any foreigner or any foreigner’s child on suspicion of a danger to public order declared by them alone!

Mr Francken rejoices in the high numbers of detainees and deportations. He does not hesitate to tweet obvious lies, and shamelessly arrests people who have the right documents.

Mr Francken casts doubts on residency cards delivered by Schengen countries, and even on mother-child relations.

Nevertheless Mr Francken had the nerve to declare his surprise when US President Trump issued his executive order on immigration: “An Iranian person who has lived in the US for five years cannot go on holidays to visit Paris and the Eiffel Tower for a week because he would not be able to go back!” But he is doing exactly the same thing himself!

Mr Francken is very proud of his anti-immigration policies. He wants to make Belgium a reactionary model to be followed by the rest of Europe – a deportation machine put in action with all his unscrupulous energy.

And our elected representatives say nothing !

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