Belgium Plans EU Focus on Migration After Fatal Terrorist Attack

18 Oct 2023

(Bloomberg) -- Belgium said it will focus on tackling illegal migration and aims to rally other European Union members to join its efforts after a terrorist attack by a Tunisian man left two Swedish football fans dead.

Belgium - Figure 1
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The suspect, who was killed by police, had remained in Belgium illegally after a failed asylum application.

“For those whose asylum request is turned down, we absolutely need to be able to organize deportation,” , Belgium’s secretary of state for asylum and migration, told reporters in Brussels on Tuesday. “We need to stand side by side in this, not only in Belgium, but in the EU because with 27 countries we can achieve a lot more.”

The EU has been working to push through new legislation on migration and asylum aimed at stemming a surge of illegal crossings through its borders by third-country nationals.

“We have to be honest, what most often goes wrong in our deportation efforts are the relations with the countries of origin. Especially in a number of countries including Tunisia,” de Moor said. “As long as we don’t bring all our weight to bear we won’t succeed. Countries have to accept the return of their own citizens.”

She added that will be her “absolute priority” when Belgium assumes the six-month rotating presidency of the EU in January.

The EU has registered more than 250,000 irregular border crossings this year, and there are 600,000 outstanding asylum applications, according to EU Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson.

The threat level for Brussels was lowered to 3 from 4 after the attacker was shot following an overnight manhunt. Prime Minister Alexander De Croo said that the suspect was known to police but didn’t feature on its watchlist of 700 suspected terrorists.

Despite initial concern the incident may have been sparked by anger over the conflict between Hamas and Israel, the attacker appeared to have been motivated by anger over events in Sweden.

“While all evidence points toward a lone wolf, this is only evidence, we don’t have absolute certainty yet,” De Croo said.

Read more: Why Koran Burning Has Sweden and Denmark in a Knot: QuickTake

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