30 April 2004
BRUSSELS – The Belgian government has vetoed plans to further harmonise the EU’s rules for dealing with refugees and asylum seekers.
At a meeting of EU interior ministers in Luxembourg on Thursday, Belgium’s representative Patrick Dewael said he could not back the plan because it was “very weak”.
The proposal needs the backing of all EU Governments to become law.
Belgium says the current version of the plan still does not set out clear, commonly agreed EU guidelines for dealing with asylum seekers.
In its current form, the ultimate responsibility for deciding whether a person should be granted political asylum or not will rest with individual EU Governments.
This could lead to a situation where it could be easier for a refugee to be granted asylum in some EU countries than others, making common rules almost impossible to respect in practice, Belgium argues.
Belgium also opposes parts of the legislation concerning so-called ‘safe’ countries from which EU governments will not normally accept applications for asylum.
Under the plan some of these countries could be divided up into safe and unsafe zones.
So, for example, a person fleeing from a region in the north of a state could apply for asylum while someone arriving in an EU country from the south could not.
Dewael argued such divisions were ridiculous, as it would be impossible to verify in practice precisely where a particular asylum seeker began his or her journey.
[Copyright Expatica 2004]
Subject: Belgian news