Belgian advert tells Iraqis not to travel there

Civilians inspect the aftermath of a car bombing near a restaurant in a commercial area of central Baghdad, Iraq, Tuesday, Sept. 29, 2015 (File Photo: AP)

The Belgian Secretary of State for Asylum Theo Francken has taken out advertising space on Facebook to discourage Iraqis (particularly those from Baghdad) from traveling to Belgium Al Arabiya News Channel has reported. According to Theo Francken and his political party N-VA, Iraq is a safe country that is not at war.

Iraqis currently represent 80 percent of asylum seekers registered by the Immigration Office. But that trend has been declining for the last month, with voluntary returns to Iraq increased by Fedasil the Belgian Federal Agency for the reception of asylum seekers.

According to Dominique Ernould, spokesman for the Immigration Office, this is due to the communication of the N-VA about the situation of Iraqis.

Last week N-VA Chairman Bart De Wever said at the University of Ghent that “Baghdad is a safe city and that Iraqis and especially Baghdad residents, should not be entitled to refugee status or subsidiary protection of two years. This financial assistance is granted to persons who have not been granted asylum but who are at major risk in their country, to begin the process of integration.”

Statements by the N-VA have provoked strong reactions from Iraqi asylum seekers, volunteers, and organizations providing assistance to migrants and refugees.

In the refugee camp in the center of Brussels in front of the Immigration Office, Iraqi asylum seekers held two demonstrations on September 10 and 11. They waved pictures of the recent bombings in Baghdad. Some Iraqi asylum seekers have even suggested Bart De Wever and Theo Francken take their wives and children on holiday in Baghdad.

On Sunday the "Refugees Welcome" event was held in Brussels. The event was in support of migrants and a worthy reception of refugees. Between 15,000 and 20,000 people - including Iraqi asylum seekers - marched through Brussels. Protestors carried banners carrying slogans like “If Baghdad is safe, go ahead!” and “Syria-Iraq, same destiny.”

The N-VA (New Flemish Alliance) is a center-right Flemish nationalist and conservative political party in Belgium. The Flemish party is part of the coalition government. The party is the largest one in the Flemish Parliament and in the Belgian delegation to the European Parliament.

The N-VA has been widely criticized by the public and the Belgian media since the beginning of the migrant crisis and the beginning of the influx of refugees into Belgium.

The views expressed on the migrant crisis have often been described as populist. By acting in this way the party has been accused of trying to attract votes from Belgium’s extreme right.

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Last Update: Wednesday, 20 May 2020 KSA 09:46 - GMT 06:46
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