International migration


Source

Statbel (National Register) & Eurostat, processed by Statistics Flanders


Definitions

International migrations: refer to the movements of persons crossing the borders of internationally recognised states in order to settle in the country of destination, either for a fixed period (minimum 3 months) or for an indefinite period. International immigrations refer to the arrivals in the country (region/town) of destination; international emigrations refer to the departures to foreign countries. International immigration consists of three components: 1) immigrations from abroad (strict), 2) re-registrations in the population register, 3) transfers from a waiting register to a regular population register. International emigration consists of 3 analogous components: 1) emigration abroad (strict), 2) official striking-offs from the population register, 3) transfers from a regular population register to a waiting register.

Official striking-offs refer to persons who have been deleted from the National Register of Natural Persons on the grounds that – following inspection by authorised officials – they are no longer domiciled at the designated principal place of residence. This decision is the responsibility of the municipalities.  

Re-registration in the population register refers to the re-registration of previously officially struck off persons, on the grounds that they have returned to the country and were apparently struck off unnecessarily.  

Note on official striking-offs and re-registrations: "As from 2010, a modified definition is in use to calculate the number of re-registered persons and the number of official striking-offs. Only persons who were struck off in the course of the year and were not re-registered in the course of the same year are considered to be officially struck off. In other words, only those persons who have been officially struck off in previous years and re-registered within the year [i.e. in the calendar year] count as struck-off re-registered persons. The purpose of this amendment is to avoid that these categories are artificially overestimated as a result of reporting or registration backlogs. See Eurostat website. This means that the time line is not complete from 2010 onwards.  

Change of register: transfer from a waiting register – mainly the waiting register for asylum seekers – to a regular population register that cover together the legally resident population. Until 2010, only the changes from a waiting register to a regular population register were mentioned (as a balance of the changes of register (entry/exit)!). Since 2010, the changes of registers have been divided into two categories: the changes from the waiting register to a regular population register (change of register - entry), which are classified as immigration movements, and the reverse movement, i.e. the changes from a regular population register to the waiting register (change of register - exit), which are classified as emigration movements. Before 2010, only the balance of these two categories was presented and this was considered as immigration. This amendment also affects the time line, which is not complete from 2010 onwards. In the data source Statbel, figures on the 'Changes of register' are available from the year 1998 onwards. The corresponding explanation on the Statbel website reads as follows: "Since 1 February 1995, asylum seekers registered in the waiting register are no longer included in the [legally] resident population figures." Indeed, now they are only included in the legally resident population through the administrative regulation of the 'Change of register (entry)', after granting of a refugee status or a recognition of the right to subsidiary protection or otherwise (medical/humanitarian reasons, etc.).

International migration balance: the balance of international immigration and international emigration, expressed per 1,000 inhabitants (defined for the average population during the observation period). A positive (international) migration balance means there are more immigrations than emigrations; also referred to as an immigration surplus or net immigration. A negative (international) migration balance means there are more emigrations than immigrations; also referred to as an immigration deficit or net emigration.  

International migration intensity: the sum of international immigration and international emigration, expressed per 1,000 inhabitants (defined for the average population during the observation period). A high migration intensity means there are many incoming and outgoing movements, and vice versa. 

Persons with Belgian nationality: persons with current Belgian nationality, including persons with dual nationality including the Belgian nationality.  

Persons with a foreign nationality: persons without a current Belgian nationality. This group can be further subdivided by nationality or nationality group. In general, a distinction can be made between foreigners with a nationality of one of the EU countries (EU excluding Belgium) and people with a non-EU nationality (non-EU).  

Persons with a foreign nationality are referred to in the law as 'foreigner[s]: any person who does not provide proof of Belgian nationality' (Law of 15 December 1980 on access to the territory, residence, establishment and expulsion of foreigners, Article 1).


Remarks on quality

Due to differences in the definitions of terms relating to population and migration as used by the data sources Statbel and Eurostat, their published statistical series are not comparable on a one-to-one basis. Below is a summary of the most important differences. 

The data source Statbel looks at international migrations in the context of the 'legally resident population' (under Belgian law). International immigration consists of three groups: 1) immigrations from abroad in the strict sense, 2) re-registrations in the population register after a previous official striking-off, 3) transfers from a waiting register to a regular population register after recognition as a refugee, after the granting of subsidiary protection status or after obtaining a residence permit for some other reason. International emigration consists of three analogous groups: 1) emigrations to countries abroad in the strict sense, 2) official deletions (striking-offs) from the population register (persons who are no longer actually domiciled in the municipality where they are registered and are also not registered in another municipality), 3) transfers from a regular population register to a waiting register. 

The 'legally resident population' is based on the National Register of Natural Persons. This is usually the situation on the 1st of January of the calendar year and is based on the entries in the population register (Belgians and foreigners who are authorised to reside in Belgium) and the foreign nationals register (foreigners who are allowed or authorised to stay in Belgium for more than 3 months for a fixed or indefinite period of time). Certain categories of foreigners (e.g. diplomatic and consular staff) are exempt from registration in the population registers. In some cases they may be registered at their own request. They are only included in the population figures in this case.

The National Register also includes the waiting register for asylum seekers in which asylum seekers are registered by the Immigration Department (DVZ), as well as a waiting register for EU citizens pending a housing inspection (after which they are registered in the foreign nationals register and counted in the population figures). Since 1995, persons registered in the waiting register for asylum seekers are no longer included in the population figures of Statbel. Asylum seekers are only included in the population statistics of Statbel once they are transferred from the waiting register for asylum seekers to a regular population register after recognition as a refugee, after being granted a subsidiary protection status or after obtaining a residence permit for another reason.  

Eurostat considers international migrations in the context of the 'usually resident population'. International immigration in an EU member state is defined by Eurostat as the movement whereby a person who previously had a permanent (usual) residence in another member state or in a country outside the EU settles in an EU Member State for a period of at least 12 months (registration on the basis of intentional residence, which is controlled to a varying extent by the member states).  

The 'usually resident population' is defined as the population that have their usual place of residence in (a municipality in) the country in question. This refers to the place where a person normally lives, regardless of temporary absences for reasons of recreation, leave, visits to friends or acquaintances, working conditions, medical care or religious pilgrimages. Only the following residents are considered usual residents: 1) persons who have been living in the place of residence for more than 12 months before the reference period (1st of January of the indicated year), and 2) persons who have arrived within the last 12 months before the reference period with the intention of staying there for more than one year (see Regulation (EC) no. 862/2007 of the European Parliament and the Council on community statistics on migration and international protection). 

The European provision stresses that asylum seekers are also included, at least for as long as they stay long-term in the receiving country (more than12 months) or at least have the intention to do so. In practice, the EU Member States use various methods to comply – more or less - with the European provisions on the 'usually resident population' and 'international migrations'.  

From 2011 onwards, Belgium reports to Eurostat on the 'usually resident population' according to the European definition. The usually resident population has slightly more members than the 'legally resident population' (about 30,000 extra for Belgium and 10,000 extra for the Flanders Region).

European statistics lack the quality of a closed logical system that is characteristic of Belgian population statistics. The latter, however, show a blind spot for the non-legally resident population (asylum seekers, so-called “people without papers”, transit migrants, etc.).


References

National Register: Website

Statbel: Population

Eurostat: Database


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