The number of people living on social benefits handed out by the state of Belgium has last year multiplied rapidly. In the Flanders region, the increase was the largest since the introduction of the current system 14 years ago. Recently arrived asylum seekers account for some 1 in 3 new cases of people receiving the so-called leefloon, which is a monthly social security allowance at the minimum subsistence level aiming to integrate people in society.
Flanders witnessed an upsurge in the number of leefloon recipients of 12.9 percent over the first 8 months of 2016, the Gazet van Antwerpen reports, whereas Wallonia saw an 8.3 percent rise and Brussels 8 percent. About 125,000 people in Belgium are now receiving the benefit, according to the Programmatorische Overheidsdienst Maatschappelijke Integratie (POD), a Flanders government organisation. POD official Julien Van Geertsom explains:
“There is not much Antwerp can do to stop refugees from settling here. Once a refugee is admitted, he is free to live where ever he wants.”
‘Poverty risk on the rise’
Other factors causing the upsurge in the number of leefloners are to be found in Belgium itself and have no relation to migration, Van Geertsom claims, such as “limitations imposed on the system of unemployment” and “generational poverty.” If the number of welfare recipients continues to rise at this speed, the poverty risk in Belgium could increase, Van Geertsom concludes.