A look inside the legal advice service

12 September 2023

On Mondays, Foyer’s legal advice service is open for questions related to immigration law. Legal expert Sebastiano Guzzone only occasionally handles files himself – there is simply not enough time to do so – but provides expert advice. So who are the people who visit the permanence and what kind of questions do they have? 

What immediately stands out is that many clients are of Moroccan origin. This is partly due to the permanence’s location in Molenbeek, where a large number of residents have Moroccan roots. Their questions are usually related to family reunification, obtaining Belgian nationality or regularisation. Such a regularisation request can take a long time. Certain categories receive a quicker response, for example families or single women. For the unpopular category of ‘single men’, the wait is usually much longer. 

A lot of people also come from other African countries, especially Guinea, Cameroon and, more recently, Eritrea. Most Eritreans are eligible for international protection. Guineans and Cameroonians, on the other hand, usually come for regularisation applications. 

In the past, quite a few Ukrainians also found their way to legal permanence, but their numbers have decreased since the 24 February 2022 invasion as they find their way via another circuit. People from Balkan countries and the former Soviet Union also often find themselves in situations that are administratively cumbersome. Albanians, for example, often find themselves with questions surrounding the renewal of residence documents. 

An issue that hardly gets any media attention anymore, but has therefore certainly not disappeared, is that of Afghan visas. It is difficult for many Afghans to get hold of documents and, moreover, Afghan documents are not always considered credible in Belgium, as birth dates, for example, may not be correct. Sometimes the Immigration Department also asks for documents that are almost impossible to obtain in Afghanistan. Afghan women have the additional problem that they are no longer allowed to travel alone. For all these reasons, family reunification from Afghanistan is also particularly difficult. 

Finally, a current issue are difficulties regarding shelter: people who cannot find a (permanent) place to stay. This was a rarity in the past, but is now starting to become more common and does not look like a situation that will be solved any time soon.