Bart De Wever does not understand the European Commission's refusal to discuss the present Schengen Agreement - which abolished border checks to allow people to travel freely within the Schengen Area, to which most West-European countries belong.
"I absolutely support Schengen, but this is in the supposition that the back door is locked. Let's check Europe's outer borders and receive refugees there first, do our job by taking up are human responsibility towards them and next make a fair deal between Europe's member states to accommodate them."
Bart De Wever is pressing for a different policy than is now the case: "Europe has to come up with something different soon, if not it's almost inevitable that member states will start closing their borders again. I give Schengen thumbs up, but if this also becomes free traffic of criminals and terrorists, then you have to intervene."
"Refugees should have a special status"
Bart De Wever is also pressing for a special status for refugees that are granted a legal permit to stay in Belgium: "Once somebody has received a residence permit, he gets a living wage, he can apply for social housing benefits, he can claim child benefits. It's difficult to explain to people that have been working hard their whole life to contribute to this (social security) system, that newly-arrived people can immediately enjoy the benefits of this system."
Giving legal refugees a different status is a sensitive issue from a European point of view. "European legislation says that social help can be restricted to the bare necessities, and each country has to freedom to decide how far it goes. Whether this means you should do it, is a different matter", says European expert Hendrik Vos.
"Where will they stay?"
De Wever expects that the worst problems still have to come. "Many refugees coming from war-torn countries will receive a legal status to stay in Belgium. The next question is: where will they stay?"
Antwerp could be an option, but De Wever says the maximum absorption capacity has been reached. "6 out of 10 babies born in Antwerp do not have Dutch as their mother tongue. If we think we can provide a good education to and good jobs to all these people, than I tell you this could be a problem."
Van Brempt: "You create the wrong climate"
In a reaction, the European MP Kathleen Van Brempt (Flemish socialist) says she is shocked by the statements made by Bart De Wever. "The way he said it, he suggested that refugees are criminals and terrorists. Then you create a climate in which citizens attack asylum centres, as we saw in Germany", Van Brempt says.
She MEP adds that De Wever is avoiding the responsibility by putting the blame on the European institutions.
Flandersnews.be / Expatica