Belgian Ombudsman to Intervene Against Revoking Migrants’ Nationality

Nicole de Moor in the EU2024BE Informal Meeting of Home Affairs Ministers in January 2024.

The Belgian Federal Ombudsman has asked Belgium’s Immigration Office to immediately stop instructing municipalities to revoke Belgian nationality of children born to Palestinian parents according to L’Echo.be.

Federal Ombudsman Jérome Aass emphasized in a statement that there is no justification for the Immigration Office sending these instructions since it is not authorized to do so.

“The Immigration Office cannot legally give instructions or advice to municipalities on questions relating to Belgian nationality,” the Belgian ombudsman shared.

No Relation to the Conflict in the Middle East

It was revealed in December of last year that the Immigration Office had written to local authorities about the status of children born to Palestinian parents in Belgium. The letters unequivocally claimed that the children were of Palestinian nationality, and as a result, the Office gave them the order to withdraw the children’s Belgian citizenship. Nicole de Moor, the state secretary for asylum and migration admitted to sending the instructions but denied that the action was related to the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas.

As per a spokesperson of the Immigration Office, the cause were purported “abuses” by Palestinians living in Belgium who have children with the intention of obtaining Belgian citizenship in the future through the family reunification procedure.

“The City of Brussels has not received any notice from the Immigration Office that it is inappropriate to withdraw Belgian nationality from a child born to Palestinian parents in Brussels. The Immigration Office gives non-binding opinions but is not authorized to give instructions to Civil Status Officers,” said Ahmed El Ktibi (PS), Alderman for Civil Status and Population in a written response to municipal councilor PTB Mathilde El Bakri. “The City of Brussels has not withdrawn Belgian nationality from a child born of Palestinian parents.” According to their information, about forty children are concerned on the territory of the City of Brussels.

Confusion and uncertainty

The Immigration Office’s recent actions have caused a state of chaos among Belgian local authorities as well as legal uncertainty and confusion for individuals.
While some municipalities chose to go by the guidelines, others chose not to or adopted a case-by-case strategy.

The Ombudsman emphasized that a person’s nationality is a crucial component of their identity, guaranteeing them basic rights and, in this case, legal certainty for their children. Jérome Aass has ordered the Immigration Office to revoke the directives it sent to the local authorities in order to stop this illegal practice and the confusion and legal uncertainty it causes.

Lastly, he instructed the Immigration Office to act with “reserve and caution” and to always consider the child’s best interests, as well as to refer the case to the appropriate authorities, should the issue resurface.

As we wrote earlier, the Swedish government has also announced a study examining extending the authority to revoke citizenship.

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