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Belgian PM rejects undocumented migrant regulation to address unemployment

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Prime Minister Alexander De Croo (Open VLD, Renew) positioned himself against a proposal aiming to regulate undocumented migrants – which was issued to address the unemployment crisis in Wallonia – on Wednesday.

This proposal was made earlier this summer in a letter from Minister-President of Wallonia Elio Di Rupo (PS/ S&D) to De Croo, where he advocated for the regularisation of “those seeking international protection and undocumented migrants” who have the skills that are sorely lacking in shortage sectors.

In his letter, he stresses that this regulation is “significantly detrimental to the interests of the Walloon Region in terms of economic migration and to Wallonia’s development effort”.

However, Di Rupo could count on significant support from his political family. Walloonian government Vice-President Christie Morreale (PS/ S&D), but also most recently Labour Minister Pierre-Yves Dermagne, whose office declared on Wednesday that this solution could help “tackle both the problem of illegal immigration and the problem of shortages on the labour market”.

“Using undocumented workers to fill jobs in short supply is not a good idea”, De Croo said on LN24. He believes the priority should be to “activate the unemployed.”

This view was shared by MR leader Georges-Louis Bouchez (Renew), who reacted earlier today on Twitter. “I don’t have any problem with economic migration, but the most urgent thing is to get Walloon job-seekers working first,” he wrote.

According to recent data from IWPS, the Walloon unemployment rate reached 8.4% for the 15-64 age group in 2022, much higher than Flanders’ (3,1%) but also higher than the European Union’s average (6.3%). The situation is unlikely to improve, demographic projections give Wallonia to run its economy with 50,000 fewer active workers than today.

Calling on migration seems, therefore inevitable for countries in demographic decline, with Germany taking the plunge earlier this year.

Putting undocumented migrants to work to fill vacancies in jobs where there is a shortage is not new: the Belgian political party Ecolo (Greens/EFA) already advocated for the legal employment of undocumented migrants over a year ago. At the time, Secretary of State for Asylum and Migration Nicole de Moor (CD&V/EPP) opposed the idea.

And her recent statement seems to confirm that she does not wish to go further in this direction. In a press release published on Tuesday, she decided to temporarily stop welcoming single men seeking asylum in Belgium into the Fedasil network in order to anticipate “the growing influx of families and children, to prevent children from ending up on the streets in winter”.

(Nina Chabot EURACTIV.com)

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