De toepassing van het Belgische immigratiebeleid in de negentiende eeuw
Belgian immigration policy in the nineteenth century
Faculty of Arts. History
TIJDSCHRIFT VOOR NIEUWSTE GESCHIEDENIS
Belgisch tijdschrift voor nieuwste geschiedenis / Jan Dhondt Stichting. - Gent, 1969, currens
, p. 12-+
University of Antwerp
The way in which national authorities receive foreign immigrants on their territory is a hot topic in the current public debate. The present Belgian immigration policy has its origins in the nineteenth century. From its foundation in 1830, the Belgian state has tried to control certain aspects of this policy. The first Aliens Act was adopted in 1935, but remained vague and left much room for interpretation. In this article, we take a close look at the immigration policy of the Belgian government in the nineteenth century. We argue that it is necessary to look at the ways in which the Belgian central government defined this limited law by mean of circulars, without losing sight of the role of the local authorities. From the analyses appears that there was a lot of communication between central and local governments on four specific points : aliens' registration, passports, public welfare and deportations (linked to vagrancy). With regard to aliens' registration it is clear that, in the first decade after the independence, the central government focused mainly on temporary migrants. From 1840 however, an administrative procedure was enacted in order to systematically register also non-temporary aliens. Concerning passport regulations, the circulars show that the central government used this particular medium to adjust its policy depending on the political and economic circumstances and the influence of international developments. The analysis of the circulars concerning public welfare shows, even though the law suggests a different image, that it was probably not impossible for foreigners to obtain welfare assistance. Finally, the analysis regarding deportations points at a strong autonomy of the municipal governments in the expulsion of unwanted foreigners who resided temporarily in the country. The analyses in this article as a whole provide a systematic and exhaustive insight in the implementing decrees and terms of the central government. Literature's one-sided focus on the legal framework, and not on its implementation margin, has as yet not provided a complete picture of nineteenth century Belgian immigration policy.