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Belgium’s Immigration Minister Drowns Himself In Debt To Keep Syrian Family Out

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Jacob Bojesson Foreign Correspondent

Belgium’s immigration minister Theo Francken refuses to sign off on visas for a Syrian family, and he is even willing to pile up tens of thousands of dollars in fines.

Francken is getting fined 4,000 euros ($4,440) per day until he appears at tribunal over his refusal to issue visas to a Syrian family. The fines are now well above $30,000.

The European Union’s regulations for asylum typically only apply when an applicant is already in the country. The family in question is still in Aleppo, and has never been to Belgium, which Francken believes make them ineligible for the visas they have been granted.

He fears a new precedent will be set if he lets the family in — one that will open the floodgates for anyone to get asylum.

“It will open the door to thousands of people,” Francken said after family’s visa application was accepted, according to Belgian broadcaster VRT. “If we allow people to come to Belgium with a visa to apply for asylum, the whole system will collapse.”

A court has ruled in favor of the family on three occasions, but Francken firmly believes the state should be in charge of immigration matters.

The family’s lawyer, Mieke van den Broeck, accuses Francken of breaking the law, and has accused him of double standards for his behavior.

“The [court] has said their situation is exceptional,” van den Broeck said, according to BBC. “This is really urgent for us, the situation in Aleppo is getting worse. There’s an offensive under way, and we’ve lost contact with our clients.”

Francken got strong reactions for a picture Wednesday where he poses in an empty office. Francken jokingly said he had to sell his furniture to pay off his growing debt to the state.

“With or without furniture we carry on working,” Francken said. “My team and I can always request political asylum anyway in the office of my good colleague and friend, [Interior Minister] Jan Jambon.”

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