Immigration is an issue of concern in every developed and developing country, because it drains the country’s financial resources. It is a problem which can’t be eradicated but can be controlled. However, when integration is poor and foreigners can’t quickly enroll in appropriate programs to enhance the economy, it significantly affects the economy more, leading to serious financial crisis. That was the similar situation in Belgium in the beginning of the year 2000, which has led to serious financial crisis without remedy.
We need to accept the fact that the September 11, terrorists attack on America, affected financial status of many countries worldwide, but much of the financial problems were manmade. The ‘Openbaar Centrum Maatschapeplijk Welzijn’ popularly known as O.C.M.W, is a social centre which provided social services for the well-being of every Belgium citizen. Even though the organization investigates the situation or resources of all applicants, before giving assistance, they made very grave mistakes which have created a deep financial crisis. The misappropriation of funds and blunders committed by the O.C.M.W can never be rectified.
Lazy workers completely refused to work, with false letters from dishonest doctors, even though they were capable to work. All because the financial assistance they were receiving was enough to satisfy them throughout the whole month. After all some salaries were even lower than what many were receiving from the O.C.M.W, therefore hanging and depending fully on taxpayers’ money. Without much pressure from the welfare association, those ‘sick’ and unwilling to work remained on the social list for years, eating deep into the association’s finance.
Another mistake the Belgian authorities made was keeping refugees on the waiting list for many years, leaving them fully depending on the benefits of the O.C.M.W, without giving them papers to work. At one time, refugees who had requested for political asylum were living better than the hard working citizens. Just imagine asylum seekers, saving enough money to buy cars and shipping them to various countries of origin. Some were able to send more than two cars, while others drove through the city wasting fuel that many of the hard working citizens couldn’t afford.
Refugees without working permit were driving, but they avoided the expensive practical driving cost and theory examination. The simple method to get them behind the steering-wheel was to go to the municipal to change their driving licenses, because there are specific countries that could change their licenses. Then false licenses began pouring in and the license changing procedure was soon cancelled. There were many accidents in the city involving foreigners and the police impounded many vehicles as a measure to prevent further calamity.
THE FAILURE OF THE MEDIA IN ANTWERP
Racism is a universal problem. It is a problem that cannot be eliminated, but it can be reduced. Everyone has dealt with it; politicians, churches, spiritual leaders and community activities are part of solving the problem. To create a better society and build a stable community, people expect the best from the media. During the administration of Patrick Janssens, the former mayor of Antwerp, the media in Antwerp encouraged and promoted racism, creating more enmity between foreigners and the citizens of Antwerp. As if they lacked building a healthy community, they never played any role in building a better integration. The media was strong on issues like political debate, economic exchange and recreation but weak when it came to issues like community building and solving racial problems. The citizens of Antwerp who were fed up of hatred, crime and violence yearned for a change. It wasn’t surprise that Patrick Janssens lost to Bart De Wever, thus; the bad role of the media led to fall of the administration of Patrick Janssens.
Sad indeed, as foreigners are taken for granted in Antwerp. No one includes a foreigner in anything which will benefit everyone. Because they think they can do everything by themselves leading to many mistakes which they prefer to hide than to make it open. The question is how can integration be better when the Flemish don’t want their own neighbour, Walloons to live in their community? For almost thirteen years in Antwerp, I still feel like an outsider stuck in a foreign country when all I want is to be a part of it.
(Book synopsis ‘Little Boygium-Wonderful Experience)