Informing future migrants or dissuading them from coming?

The Foreigners Office has issued a “special” public tender a few days ago. The goal of the tender is to select a communications firm that could carry out the task of informing potential migrants about their rights.

The company to be selected by the Belgian authorities will implement a campaign to “inform” potential migrants about “the risks associated to illegal migration and the conditions required to ask for asylum, and living in Belgium.

Although this campaign on the surface seems very neutral – it is important to inform people from all over the world about their rights – it also can lead to skeptical interpretation. There is no need to remind anyone what Theo Francken, the Secretary of State for Migration and Asylum, thinks about migration and asylum seekers. His recent public speeches have been explicit: he wants to limit as much as possible the number of applications or migrants in Belgium.

Theo Francken

This is why the human rights’ defenders have not welcomed the future campaign. “We understand the need to deliver correct information to the migrants, but this spending only seems aimed at dissuading asylum seekers from applying in Belgium,” the NGO Soteira told Le Soir on Monday.

Although this sort of strategy might be controversial, it is not new. The EU Heads of State have endorsed the

Malta Declaration last year, which focused on all aspects of migration. They committed to enhance information and outreach campaigns addressed to migrants in Libya and countries of origin and transit, in cooperation with local actors and international organizations, particularly to counter the smugglers’ business model.” Some national authorities have implemented such campaigns in their countries.

The key point to know is what the information campaign will actually consist of.