Since August, several Belgian municipalities have received letters from the Immigration Office asking them to withdraw the Belgian nationality of children born in Belgium to Palestinian parents, lawyer Julien Wolsey, president of the ociation for Foreigners’ Rights, revealed last November. He ures that requests have multiplied since October, and the start of the war between Israel and Hamas.
The Belgian daily the Echo revealed this Thursday that the office of the Belgian Secretary of State for Asylum and Migration admitted having sent these letters to several municipalities across the country, mostly in Antwerp municipalities, in Liège, in the Brussels region or even in East Flanders. Several municipalities followed these recommendations, and summoned Palestinian families living in Belgium so that the mention of the Belgian nationality of their children could be removed from the national register. The identity cards of the people concerned had to be returned to the authorities.
The cabinet insisted on refuting any link with the conflict in the Middle East. “Contacts with the municipalities have existed since August, therefore two months before the start of the recent conflict. This must be considered independently of the conflict,” he reminded our colleagues. Palestinian nationals represent the third largest nationality to have requested asylum in Belgium in 2022 and 2023.
Lawyer Julien Wosley denounced the “legally scandalous practice” of the State Secretariat, stressing that the Foreigners Office had “no competence in matters of nationality”. Another lawyer interviewed by the Echo, Marie Doutrepont, criticizes Nicole de Moor, Secretary of State for Asylum and Migration, of “making undocumented immigrants from citizens living in Belgium”. The firm confirms the sending of these letters and justifies itself by the fact that, according to the Foreigners’ Office, Palestinians in the European Union go “regularly to Belgium to have children with a view to acquiring Belgian nationality and, therefore, to benefit from family reunification.”
Jean-Marc Picard, lawyer specializing in foreigners’ law, explains to RTL that these municipalities do not have the right to withdraw nationality from these children. As Palestine is not recognized as a state everywhere, children born to Palestinian parents are considered stateless. The Belgian nationality code stipulates that a stateless child born in Belgium obtains de facto Belgian nationality. “The law does not provide for refusing them nationality,” he ures.
The Immigration Office, for its part, argues that the children whose nationality was withdrawn were not stateless since their parents had another nationality, namely Palestinian nationality. But is this nationality confirmed in the legal sense of the term? The five Belgian appeals courts ruled that the Palestinians were not stateless, according to the Figaro. The Court of Cation must deliver its judgment soon.