On 10 April 2012, the Belgian far-right party Vlaams Belang launched a new website inciting citizens to denounce through on-line application crimes committed by undocumented migrants. They received instead hundreds of messages of protest by civil society that congested and blocked the server hosting the website for some hours.
Interviewed by the international press agency Reuters, Eve Geddie, PICUM Programme Officer, said that “The website is a clear incitement to hatred and an attempt by the Vlaams Belang to gain some attention in view of the up-coming local elections. This sort of initiative has no place in modern European society”.
Also the Belgian Minister of Interior did not hesitate to react and, through his spokesperson condemned the website as “illegal”, explaining that “It is an invasion of privacy. It is not up to citizens to take the place of the police”.
It is not the first time that the Vlaams Belang openly incites hatred, as they were sentenced in 2004, and unfortunately they are not an isolated case in Europe. A similar website by the far-right freedom party in the Netherlands was condemned by the European Parliament (EP) on 15 March 2012. Both are examples of a broader trend seen across Europe of politicians who want to appeal to the general public through populist discourses and exploit people’s fear and uncertainty. Undocumented migrants are one of the most vulnerable, silenced and misunderstood groups in Europe, and they are an easy target for scapegoating, especially in time of economic and social crisis.
PICUM, a network of more than 140 grassroots organisations providing services for undocumented migrants in 34 countries across the world, has a deep knowledge of the realities they face. Undocumented migrants systematically experience violations of their human rights and face obstacles in accessing basic services, such as health care and education. At the same time, they are a vital part of our society that benefits from them. Certain economic sectors are dependent on the presence of undocumented workers who are unprotected and easily exploitable providing cheap and flexible workers, in order to create profits and survive. But paradoxically, these needed workers are criminalized, chased and forced into a life of isolation without access to basic rights and services.
European and national authorities must improve knowledge about the situation of undocumented migrants, protect and uphold their human rights and provide more regular channels to work and reside in Europe. It is an urgent battle for basic dignity and humanity.