Mr. Walden Bello, Member of Philippine Parliament, denied entry to Belgium
A statement regarding the treatment of Walden Bello upon arriving at Zaventem airport.
Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO) and the Transnational Institute (TNI) express their indignation at the decision of the Belgian Immigration to deny entry to Mr. Walden Bello, who has been invited as a panelist to a two-day International Conference on Europe in Brussels. Mr. Bello, an elected Representative of the Philippine Parliament, Chairperson of the Philippine Parliamentary Committee on Overseas Workers’ Affairs and Associate of TNI, arrived at Zaventem airport from Newark, New Jersey in the morning of May 4 aboard United Airlines on a diplomatic passport. At immigration control, he was informed that a visa is also required for him to enter Belgium, notwithstanding existing Schengen-member policy that grants visa exemptions to holders of diplomatic passports.
The final decision to deny him entry came from the Ministry of the Interior despite interventions by the Protocol Office of the Belgian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Philippine Embassy, and the Flemish coalition of development organizations (11.11.11) who intervened to request a border visa for Mr. Bello. Mr. Bello was then immediately ushered to the first flight headed to the United States--to Chicago instead of New Jersey.
CEO and TNI strongly protest this denial of entry to Mr. Bello. The unilateral decision by the Ministry of the Interior is completely unacceptable and contrary to the obligation of the Belgian government as the seat of the EU Institutions. We demand an explanation from the Belgian Ministry of the Interior about this refusal of entry—given the solid evidence of Mr. Bello’s intention to return to the United States, where he is currently teaching at the University of Binghamton, and the overwhelming support of the Philippine Embassy that vouched for his person.
This withholding of a border visa for Mr. Bello, which could have been issued and indeed had been requested for him by the immediate immigration officials, raises serious questions as to what grounds and on what basis citizens of other countries are assessed at the EU borders and who, ultimately, makes these decisions. This treatment of such a public figure as Mr. Bello raises more fundamental questions about the Belgian government’s and the EU’s border policy and its treatment of ordinary citizens of countries outside the EU who have no recourse for appeal or action.