Belgium frequently uses Frontex funds to send back refugees. But how frequently exactly? According to Belgian Minister of Asylum and Migration Maggie De Block (Open VLD, Flemish liberal party), one in three of all refugees who returned via Frontex last year were from Belgium. But that happens to be not completely correct.
Frontex, also known as the European Border and Coast Guard Agency, supports Schengen Associated Countries in managing the EU’s external borders and fighting cross-border crime. Whenever a country wants to legally send refugees back to their home country, they can make use of funds from Frontex.
Belgium indeed used these funds, but not as much as stated by De Block. She stated that a third of all individuals who were sent back with the help of Frontex were from Belgium, which amounts to 1540 according to De Block.
1540 or 15 850?
The Frontex website published this document this year. On page five, the document specifies that last year a total 15 850 people were returned by Frontex.
Now take the 1540 that we had earlier. According to De Block that would be a third of the total, which is 15 850. So something is not correct. But what exactly?
We sent an email to Belgian weekly Knack, where the claim was published, to ask about their sources. They had mailed Frontex asking if these numbers were correct. Frontex responded to them saying that they indeed helped Belgium with returning 1565 people – which is a bit more than stated by De Block, but within range.
Commercial vs chartered flights
However, these 1565 people were returned via commercial flights. And the total of people returned via commercial flights last year is 4776. Although 1565 is indeed one third of 4776, that does not mean that Belgium uses a third of all funds for people returned by Frontex. Because people returned via commercial flights comprise less than a third of all people returned.
So De Block only took commercial flights in account. But besides commercial flights, Frontex helped Belgium return another 205 people via chartered flights which brings the total for Belgium up to 1770. With a total of 15 850 people Belgium only makes up about 11% of all returns by Frontex. Which is a third of what De Block claimed.
To conclude, we consider De Block’s claim mostly false because she takes only a part of all the flights into account.
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