In a stern warning to Nigerians contemplating migration to Europe, including Belgium, the Belgian government has urged a reconsideration, shedding light on the harsh realities faced by Nigerian migrants in the country.
Mr Freddy Roosemont, the Director-General of the Belgian Office for Foreigners, delivered this cautionary message during a press conference in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) on Friday.
Roosemont dispelled the notion of Europe, particularly Belgium, being a ‘land of milk and honey,’ emphasizing the difficulties faced by migrants in finding decent employment.
He revealed that Nigeria holds the unfortunate distinction of having the highest number of individuals forced into prostitution in Belgium, often enticed by false promises of abundant job opportunities.
“The dream is not real; it’s not easy to survive in Europe without a decent job. The dream is fake. Belgium is not the land of milk and honey, nor is Europe,” Roosemont asserted, underlining the changing global landscape with numerous crisis hotspots and severe economic consequences.
Expressing concern about the rising number of Nigerians seeking asylum in Belgium, Roosemont disclosed that 362 Nigerian migrants sought asylum in 2022, with the number increasing to 380 in 2023. However, only a small fraction of these applicants had their requests granted. He emphasized that asylum is determined based on the Geneva Convention, excluding economic motives, leading to a significantly low recognition rate and almost nonexistent chances of obtaining a residence permit.
“Asylum is determined on the basis of the Geneva Convention, and economic motives are not included. Therefore, the recognition rate for asylum is very low, and the chances of obtaining a residence permit are almost non-existent,” Roosemont explained.
The consequence of rejected asylum applications, according to Roosemont, is that individuals are compelled to live in irregular stay, devoid of social safety nets, exposing them to precarious conditions and the risk of economic exploitation.
Women, in particular, face the heightened risk of being drawn into prostitution.
As the Belgian government issues this warning, it underscores the need for prospective migrants to thoroughly assess the risks and challenges associated with seeking a better life in Europe. The realities of stringent asylum criteria, limited opportunities, and the potential for exploitation highlight the importance of informed decision-making when contemplating such significant life changes.