International migration

  • More international immigrants than emigrants for years in a row

    For the Flemish Region, there were just over 74,000 immigrations from abroad and almost 50,000 emigrations to other countries in the course of 2018. This resulted in a positive international migration balance of some 24,900 units. 


    International migration from and to the Flemish Region has shown a positive balance for many years. Since 2014, there is again an increase in this balance, mainly due to increased international immigration. 


    In 2018, the increase in international immigration is smaller than in the previous year and international emigration has slightly decreased. 

  • Official strikings-off account for almost 4 out of 10 international emigrations

    International immigration can be broken down into three groups:  

    • Immigration from abroad (outside Belgium) in the strict sense 


    International immigration in the strict sense accounts for the lion's share of international immigration to the Flemish Region (81%) in 2018. Re-registrations (11%) and transfers (8%) account for the rest in more or less equal parts. 


    International emigration also has three components:  

    • Emigration abroad (outside Belgium) in the strict sense 


    Emigrations in the strict sense represent just over 6 out of 10 cases within the overall context of international emigration (63%). Nearly 4 out of 10 cases are official strikings-off (37%), while transfers to a waiting register are limited (representing less than 0.5%). 

  • Half of international immigrants are citizens of another EU country

    International immigrants can be broken down by nationality into Belgians, EU citizens (excluding Belgians) and non-EU citizens. EU citizens (excluding Belgians) make up half of the group immigrating to the Flemish Region from abroad. This is followed by the group of non-EU citizens and next by  Belgians. 


    Belgians are more prominent in international emigration, while non-EU citizens are much less so. 

  • Overall positive balances for international migration in the Flemish municipalities

    In most Flemish municipalities, the (average annual) balance for international migration in 2016-2018 was positive. The balance was negative for only 15 municipalities. Half of these are municipalities in the Flemish periphery around Brussels (the municipalities with linguistic facilities, Kraainem, Linkebeek, Sint-Genesius-Rode and Wezembeek-Oppem, in addition to Hoeilaart, Overijse and Tervuren) and Huldenberg. 


    The top 5 municipalities with a high positive balance in relation to the population (per 1,000 inhabitants) are Langemark-Poelkapelle, Arendonk, Kapellen, Sint-Truiden and Turnhout. 

  • High international migration intensity in Leuven

    Of all the Flemish central cities, Leuven not only has a high positive balance for international migration but also a high migration intensity.  This reflects the sum total of immigrations and emigrations, expressed per 1,000 inhabitants. Leuven has an average migration intensity of 91 units per 1,000 inhabitants per year in the period 2016-2018. 

    Migration intensity is also excessive for Antwerp and Ghent (around 40 units per 1,000 inhabitants), just as it is for Turnhout (value 34). Lower values are noted (around 20) for the other central cities. 


    Outside the Flemish central cities, we observe high migration intensities for municipalities bordering the Netherlands (Baarle-Hertog, Hoogstraten and Ravels at the top of the ranking) and for municipalities in the Flemish periphery around Brussels (Kraainem, Tervuren and Wezembeek-Oppem). 


    In all Flemish central cities, the balance of international migration in the period 2016-2018 was positive. The relative contribution of this component to population growth was strongest in Turnhout, Roeselare and Leuven. 

  • International immigration of non-EU citizens close to the European average

    The immigration of non-EU citizens in relation to the population in 2017 for both the Flemish Region and Belgium (4.3 per 1,000 inhabitants) is slightly above the EU average (4 per 1,000 inhabitants). In Belgium, the Brussels-Capital Region is a hub for international migration and has a particularly high immigration rate. 


    Within the EU, Malta, Luxembourg and Sweden have higher scores in this respect. 

    Typical for the Flemish Region and for Belgium is that the majority (55%) of foreigners who immigrated from abroad in 2017 have the citizenship of another EU member state, and therefore fewer come from outside the EU (45%). For the EU28 as a whole, the ratio is reversed (40% from another EU member state versus 60% from outside the EU). 


Statistics Flanders: Population movement 
Statbel: Population 
Eurostat: Database 


Official striking-off: persons who no longer actually reside in the municipality in which they are registered and who are not registered in another municipality can be struck off the population register (in accordance with the legal procedure provided for this purpose). 

Re-registration: the person is re-registered in a legal population register; this is only registered as such if the previous official striking-off was carried out in a previous calendar year.  

Central cities: As part of its urban policy, the Government of Flanders designated 13 'central cities'. These are Aalst, Antwerp, Bruges, Genk, Ghent, Hasselt, Kortrijk, Leuven, Mechelen, Ostend, Roeselare, Sint-Niklaas and Turnhout. 

International migration balance: the balance of international immigration and international emigration (to and from countries abroad - outside Belgium). 

Waiting register: asylum seekers are first registered in a waiting register. Once they are recognised as refugees, after allocation of a subsidiary protection status or after obtaining a residence permit for another reason, they are transferred to a regular population register. 

Average population: the arithmetical average of the population as measured at the beginning and the end of the calendar year. 

Usually resident population: The population with their usual residence in the country as published by the European Statistical Office Eurostat. Persons registered in the waiting register for asylum seekers are partly included (depending on the length of stay according to the European definition). 

Legally resident population: The population registered in the National Register as published by the Belgian Statistical Office Statbel. These are residents with a right of permanent residence or establishment in Belgium or with a right of temporary residence (>3 months) in the country. Persons registered in the waiting register for asylum seekers are not included. 

Publication date

9 July 2019

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