One in six living in Flanders is of foreign descent


The new Flemish Integration Monitor reveals that more than 1 million people living in Flanders are of first- or second-generation foreign descent

Integration minister calls figures “dramatic”

One in six people in Flanders was born outside Belgium or to foreign parents, according to figures released yesterday by Flemish integration minister Geert Bourgeois. His report, the Flemish Integration Monitor, reveals that 1,114,792 million people living in Flanders are of foreign origin.

The integration report covers people whose original nationality is non-Belgian and for the first time includes second-generation children, who have a Belgian passport but at least one parent who is non-Belgian. The figure for toddlers is even more noteworthy: one in three children under the age of five comes from a non-Belgian background.

About one-half of non-Belgians come from elsewhere in the European Union, mainly countries bordering Belgium. Some 15% come from North African countries, such as Morocco and Algeria, while about 10% are nationals of countries applying for EU membership (including Turkey).

Bourgeois explained that the unexpectedly high figure for foreigners was due to the inclusion of second-generation children. While they had Belgian nationality, they still faced considerable problems, he said. “They are confronted with serious disadvantages in terms of poverty, education, employment and housing,” Bourgeois told Radio 1 yesterday.

The minister said that one of the most valuable tools in tackling these problems is “language, language and language”. The report revealed that a sizeable number of migrants had a poor command of Dutch. One-third of foreigners living in Ghent did not speak Dutch at home, while 41% of immigrant children in Antwerp spoke no Dutch at home.

“It is really important to be able to speak Dutch in order to feel like a part of society,” Bourgeois said, “but we are finding that even second-generation children are failing. This is dramatic.”

The largest concentration of foreigners is found in the former mining town of Genk in Limburg province, where 54% are non-Belgian. Maasmechelen, also in Limburg, comes next with 44%, followed by Vilvoorde (43%) and Antwerp (42%). The cities of Ghent (29%), Mechelen (28%) and Leuven (27%) also have high numbers of foreigners.

The number of children under five of foreign origin is highest in the border town of Baarle-Hertog in Antwerp province (81%) because of the high concentration of Dutch families. Maasmechelen comes next with 73% of under-fives classified as foreign, Genk (72%) and Vilvoorde and Antwerp (both 68%).

“We have a disproportionate level of passive migration,” Bourgeois concluded. “Only 15% of people who enter our country come here to work or study. That is considerably less than the Netherlands or France, where the figure is 40%.” 

Photo by Jim Zuckerman/CORBIS

New Flemish Integration Monitor reveals that more than 1 million people living in Flanders are of foreign descent or are second-generation Belgians.

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