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Town halls obstructing Belgian nationality requests, charity claims
A non-profit association that helps foreigners obtain Belgian citizenship has accused several municipalities in Brussels of obstructing applications without valid reason.
Objectif says the civil status department at several town halls are too strict in their application of the rules and too quick to turn down applications on a technicality.
Immigration lawyer Pierre Robert told RTBF: "Some municipalities have effectively prevented or advised against our clients applying for nationality when they were visibly entitled to do so."
The procedure to become Belgian became more complicated in January 2013. One applicant who has been struggling with Anderlecht municipal officials for the past year told RTBF: "They just don't want to do it.
"I'm entitled to it, we have all the legal texts that prove it, but I'm told it's impossible. A lawyer told me that I had to move elsewhere because in Anderlecht, things are so much more difficult."
Objectif director Rachida Leftah says a town hall's first job is to purely check that the application is complete and that it can be submitted. But some municipalities are making an early judgement that a request cannot proceed - including Anderlecht, where the charity is helping 30 foreigners.
The local councillor in charge of civil status, Monique Cassart, has defended the town hall's work and said the majority of applicants for Belgian nationality that were passed to the prosecutor for approval were accepted.