(24-05-2022) In My Name, a citizen's law proposal for clear and fair regularization criteria. We collected 35.000 signatures from Belgian citizens who signed our civil law proposal and doing so, we have the right to speak in the federal parliament. But…

In My Name, you may already have heard of this campaign. A campaign carried out by three collectives of undocumented fellow citizens, supported by dozens of civil society organizations and citizens, documented and undocumented. After dozens of manifestations, demonstrations, petitions (including wearebelgiumtoo to which 45,000 citizens put their names), occupations and also the hunger strike this summer, this is a new step in the fight for a more just migration policy. The In My Name campaign was launched to get a citizens' law debated in the federal parliament. A citizens' law based on five spearheads:


1.     An end to arbitrariness: there should be clear criteria for the regularization process, which take into account the impossibility to return, long-term anchorage and certain forms of vulnerability.

2.     The appointment of an independent regularization committee made up of stakeholders in the sector. They will take the final decision in case of appeals after rejection.

3.     The possibility to submit the application for regularization in Belgium, instead of at the Belgian diplomatic or consular post abroad.

4.     Stop the criminalization of people who are not recognized as citizens by the State. Regularization should not be refused because of undocumented work or offences related to the migration route.

5.     Regularization based on a personalized project: migration is wealth. That is why we propose a pathway of regularization based on a personal project. The person will be supported by an advisor who will help and follow them during the development of their project.


Clarity in the regularization procedure is needed. Our country, with its unpredictable recognition procedures, forced expulsions, detention centres and European border control, has an inhumane policy towards unrecognized citizens. The European Union invests hundreds of millions of euros every year in violent border surveillance, and on top of that the current deportation policy of the Belgian government costs tens of millions of euros every year. This is paid with our tax money. In addition, the current regularization law looks more like a lottery than a well-framed procedure worthy of our rule of law. In December 2021, 160 lawyers signed an open letter complaining that there are currently no clear regularization criteria. Who is or is not recognized is currently arbitrary. It is impossible for these lawyers to assist their clients properly if even they, the specialists, do not know the criteria. This policy is a shared responsibility of all recognized citizens. The parliament that voted and enforces these laws represents us, and it is up to us to urge our people's representatives to act.


"Invisible" or not, unrecognized citizens are citizens of our society: they go to school, live and work like all other citizens on "our" territory, contributing to society. Society needs their labour force, not least because non-recognized citizens often work in bottleneck professions. Due to their legal status, non-recognized citizens are forced into undocumented work, which increases the risk of poor working conditions and exploitation. Among others, buildings of the European Commission in Brussels, the renovated metro station Kunst-Wet and even a police station were co-built by non-recognized hands. The fact that unrecognized fellow citizens are not entitled to social security not only makes these situations more precarious, it is also a financial loss for society. ACV Brussels calculated that there would be an additional 65 million euros per month in social contributions if ⅔ of the non-recognized citizens were entitled to contribute.


And it worked! On 17 May we handed over 35,000 signatures to the Chamber and the procedure of counting the signatures can begin. 35,000 signatures, that's 10,000 "too many" since 25,000 are needed to get a citizens' bill discussed in the Federal Parliament. But... a very big but... the commission “Petities” who decide upon those civil law proposals don’t want to start the procedure to count the signatures, as it is “too much work” to check the online and the “offline” (on paper) signatures, although they told us that this combination of online and signatures on paper is valid. A bureaucratic problem which stops a democratic process. We can’t accept this.


A small preview of what we hope to get in the newspaper (in Dutch) on 23 May as an opinion piece, with more information about the process and civil law proposals.


Vivaldi plays the tune of citizen participation on a false violin


Our democracy is in trouble. Or rather: people are having an increasingly hard time with 'politics'. The gap is closing and so is the citizenry. "It's more than just some noise on the line", as Minister Annelies Verlinden herself recently analysed. "It's about snapped connections."


To restore the line, the government is putting extra emphasis on citizen participation. Vivaldi wants to hear our ideas, and not just in the voting booth. This is the first time that a large-scale citizens' survey on the structure of the Belgian state has been carried out: ‘een land van de toekomst'. Every citizen older than sixteen can have his, her or their say, especially 'those who do not feel heard'. But the survey turned out to be even more complicated than our state structure itself. Does it increase participation or irritation? 


Much less promotion (than the 1.1 million for the advertising agency behind this survey) is there for that other citizen participation scheme that was launched in 2019: 'the citizen initiative'. This invites citizens to submit a bill of their own. You just post it on the Chamber's website. And if 25,000 other Belgians also put their signatures to it, it is discussed in parliament.


After exactly three years, the harvest looks remarkably meagre. About a hundred citizens' bills have been submitted, but only one reached the final stage: a proposal from the trade unions for automatic indexation of wages and benefits. Until last week. Then we, unattached citizens with and without documents, united as In My Name, reached 35.000 signatures for our citizens' bill for a more transparent regularization policy. A gift for democracy, we thought: 35.000 Belgians from all over the country who still seem to believe in politics. On 17 May, we came to present this gift to the Parliament ourselves in celebration.


The Chamber's reaction? Kafka squared. The signatures that had been collected for months were not accepted because the ten officials responsible could not find a way of checking the possible duplicates between 13.000 digital and 22.000 paper names. Too much work. Yet less than a month ago, this combination was approved, and the Royal Decree (koninklijk besluit) of 2019 also provides for this double option. Was the parliament so surprised that a successful citizens' initiative suddenly arrived after all? Randomness not only colours our regularization policy, but also our participation policy. Would you like your voice to be heard, but we don't listen?


This bureaucratic joke comes on top of all the technical shortcomings of the federal website where citizens have to sign digitally with their eID card or via Itsme. Once in two it doesn't work. For one in five enthusiasts, it does not work after several times. Does this increase participation or irritation? In the year 2022, reverting to classic paper appears to be the only choice.


Meanwhile, a civil law proposal has even been introduced around the citizens' bill itself, to simplify it drastically. Response from Minister Verlinden of Democratic Renewal under that proposal: "There is currently no intention to amend the Citizens' Initiative (Act of 2 May 2019)." Aha. So we, as citizens, are actually only allowed to submit bills that fit within the political plans? Belgium at its best.


It is no coincidence that similar regulations in our neighbouring countries are so much more accessible and successful. In the Netherlands, Germany and Great Britain you need 40.000, 50.000 and 100.000 signatures respectively to get a bill through Parliament as a citizen, but your name and a few pieces of identification are enough. After that, parliamentary services simply carry out a simple random check to verify the validity of all the signatures. Citizen participation takes precedence over state bureaucracy. Apparently, the opposite applies in Belgium.


Teething troubles? For undocumented fellow citizens, this surreal situation comes on top of years of exploitation, non-recognition of their fundamental rights and a hunger strike with, ultimately, broken promises. For dozens of volunteers who have worked their asses off for months for democracy and basic rights - from the Sunday market to the sports club - this is the umpteenth signal that it is better not to do anything. That people will not listen anyway.


The biggest loser, however, will be politics itself. So clumsy and even incapable of closing the gap, they are actually widening it themselves. From local citizens' councils after the political decision to parties that supposedly molt into 'movement': as long as politics keeps on cheating its participative tune, it should really not be surprised that the connection snaps.


Dear Members of Parliament, you wanted to hear our opinion so badly? Here it is: with your Committee Petitions on Tuesday, give the signal that you do not want to shake the faith of 35.000 Belgians in democracy, but rather applaud it. And that you still want to discuss the very first successful bill of non-aligned citizens in Belgium in parliament. We did our job. Now finally do yours.


We started an e-mail action, on the website inmyname you will find the button "send an e-mail", with which you can send an e-mail directly to the chairwoman of the Committee Petitions to express your concern about this violation of our civil rights.


You can also still sign the citizens' bill, since the Chamber has given us until the end of this legislature to collect additional signatures. However, we do not want to pursue this further, we did our job. It is now time for the Chamber to do its job so that not only our citizens' bill, but also any other citizens' bill that meets the conditions, is effectively discussed.

Some interesting references to opinion pieces of In My Name and/or interesting pieces with a mention of In My Name (in Dutch…), for a bit more contextualisation:

-        De Europese ontvangst voor Oekraïense vluchtelingen toont aan dat een andere migratiepolitiek mogelijk is (

-        ‘Onze “morele plicht om te helpen” mag geen schakelaar zijn die we naar believen aan en uit zetten’ - MO*

-        Gents theater NTGent wil migranten sneller aan papieren helpen: “We willen niet meer horen dat België gastvrij is” | Gent |


-        Waarom de Belgische klimaatbeweging zich moet verenigen achter IN MY NAME –

-        Campagne voor een humaan regularisatiebeleid – Redactie Radio Centraal

-        Met 35.000 handtekeningen naar het parlement voor vlottere regularisatie sans-papiers: ‘We mogen niet vergeten dat dit ook mensen zijn’ (

-        250 mensen stappen mee met sans-papiers van Molenbeek naar DVZ | BRUZZ

-        Er is geen personeelstekort. Er zijn mensen van hier die deze lege plekken graag zouden willen invullen (