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3 Mar 2020 11:35 AM | Tim Reynolds

The Belgian Federal Public Service (FPS) Health, Food Chain Safety and Environment has established a website on the #COVID19 virus that is available in English as well as Flemish, French and German.

Contact us if you want the BBCA to post a News Story or an Event that is strongly linked to the British Community in Brussels.  We reserve the right to select items for publication and to edit items as required for style and space.

Email    BBCA.NewsAndEvents@gmail.com


News and Events -----------

  • 22 May 2021 5:52 PM | Tim Reynolds (Administrator)

    BBCA long-time partner charity, the British Charitable Fund (BCF), has recently published its 2020 Annual Review and held its Annual General Meeting. The 2020 review outlines the BCF’s activities during a uniquely difficult period with the Covid crisis and associated social and economic issues caused by the pandemic. How did the BCF respond? And what can you do to help?


    Writing in the review, BCF President Ambassador Martin Shearman noted that: “over the last twelve months, the toll extorted by Coronavirus had been heavy, but come what may, living through the last year has shown us how much kindness, selflessness and concern for others matter. The British Charitable Fund embodies those virtues.”

    The British Charitable Fund was founded in 1815, at the request of the Duke of Wellington, to help injured soldiers and their dependants who remained in Belgium after the Battle of Waterloo. Over 200 years later, the charity continues to help British nationals and their dependants in Belgium in times of need.

    2020 and the BCF

    “During 2020, the Covid pandemic threw a very harsh spotlight onto the societies we live in today,” says Julie Huckle, BCF Chairman, in the Review. “The inability of people to go about their normal daily business meant that livelihoods were threatened, income was cut, social contact was virtually eliminated and, unless you were adept at virtual interaction, the risks associated with isolation were very, very real.”

    “The coronavirus has affected all of our lives to one degree or another, but I am proud to say that BCF volunteers have continued to act and make a difference to people’s lives,” she continues. “The tenacity and consistency of my BCF colleagues in 2020 has been exemplary and I am so glad to report that, when the test of man’s humanity to man comes, BCF volunteers stand ready.”

    “Despite the pandemic, we were able to continue benefiting from our supporters’ financial assistance and we are and will remain very grateful for this,” Julie concludes.

    The work of the BCF basically relies on two major resources. Time, which BCF volunteers bring in quantity, and money, which the BCF’s supporters continue to provide and for which the Beneficiaries of BCF resources, and their families, are extremely grateful.

    Barbara Blackwell

    At the AGM, the BCF remembered one of its longest-serving and greatly cherished volunteer members, Barbara Blackwell MBE, who passed away peacefully at her Brussels home in October 2020. Barbara was a very long-term resident of Brussels having first moved here with her family before World War II. She returned to Brussels after the war in 1948 and, with her husband Blackie Blackwell, was at the heart of British community activities, including the BBCA, for decades.

    Barbara was on the Board of the BCF for over 40 years, making weekly visits to beneficiaries who needed support. For this work she was awarded an MBE 30 years ago for services to the British Community in Brussels. Her contribution to BCF, and to the wider community, was immense.

    What does the BCF do?

    People come to the BCF in times of personal crisis. They may be young or old, long-term residents in Belgium, new arrivals, or just passing through. They come from all walks of life. The BCF is non-denominational and non-judgemental, and simply does what is required to get lives back on track.

    See below a range of BCF case studies that illustrate the kind of work the charity undertakes and the wide variety of people that they help. Names in the examples have been changed to protect identities.

    Case study: Margaret

    The BCF was asked to help Margaret who was widowed in February 2019. She needed immediate help with administrative procedures but also required support as she began to suffer from the onset of dementia. Margaret was always cheerful, bright and grateful for the help she received but was quite alone in Belgium. The BCF managed her administrative affairs, helped with medical and hospital visits and facilitated her return to the UK in September 2020 to live in secure accommodation. Her family solicitor remarked that BCF had quite probably saved Margaret’s life.

    The problems people encounter are many and varied and can turn lives upside down. For instance, coping with administrative requirements upon the loss of a spouse can often be daunting, and loneliness and isolation (often coupled with money issues) can be longer-term problems for many people, not necessarily just the elderly. Language barriers only add to the difficulties for many and continued uncertainty following Brexit adds yet another layer of anxiety for many people, often the most vulnerable amongst us.

    Case study: George

    George lived happily in Brussels for 10 years and seemed to be in good health. He regularly visited his family in the UK but they grew concerned because of changes in his behaviour. At their request, the BCF met George following a call from the owner of his favourite Brussels café after George lost both his wallet and his passport. Working closely with the British Consulate, George’s situation was stabilised and he was found a place in a care home where he now lives happily and safely. George’s sister is certain that the BCF’s help saved George’s life.

    As the case stories demonstrate, the BCF can help with advice, financial support, and regular visits to help combat loneliness. There is no limit to the type of help BCF gives which can range from having a weekly meeting over a cup of tea, to arranging legal or financial advice, to providing significant long-term financial support. The BCF works as a committee and is a group of unpaid volunteers. The BCF works in conditions of the strictest confidentiality and, whilst costs are kept to an absolute minimum, it is an ‘agency of last resort’ and only steps in when applicants have exhausted the normal means of support from family or government sources. However, the BCF’s structure enables them to react fast (often within a day), and support can last for as little as a few days, or continue for many years.

    Case study: The West Family

    The West family - a young couple with a new-born baby - came to Belgium for work but their situation was seriously impacted by the Covid pandemic and they found themselves with no income. The British Consulate was able to contact local social care providers who could help the couple and the BCF was able to relieve some of their financial pressures, not least the threat of eviction from their rented apartment.

    The BCF works closely with other organisations that also help British nationals in Belgium. Many of the BCF’s beneficiaries come to them via organisations such as the Royal British Legion (RBL), the Community Help Service (CHS) and the Wednesday Club, as well as the Anglican churches.

    Case study: Long-term Support

    Terrorist attacks do not distinguish between nationalities and British victims were amongst the casualties in the terrorist attacks of 22 March 2016 in Belgium. Foreign victims in particular required support from their own countries. The BCF mobilised help quickly in conjunction with the Embassy, Consulate and UK Police. More than five years later, the BCF continues to give much needed logistical and moral support to those who were injured or lost a spouse that day.

    The BCF liaises regularly with the Consulate and the British Embassy who, when their powers to intervene are limited, have referred cases to the BCF.

    How can you help?

    In a world where vulnerable people can easily find themselves in difficult situations, the calls on the BCF’s resources are continually increasing. New volunteers are always welcome and, should you have some time to spare, please consider join the organisation in helping people less fortunate than ourselves. You can contact BCF via their website: www.bcfund.be.

    Alternatively, you could consider donating to help BCF continue its work. As a registered Belgian charity all donations over EUR 40 are tax deductible. You can make a bank transfer to the British Charitable Fund account – IBAN BE37 3101 8900 8428 - with the message ‘Donation’ and please include your address or email details so that the BCF can stay in touch. Donate today! 

  • 28 Apr 2021 10:44 AM | Anonymous


    Topic: BBCA Annual General Meeting

    Time: May 25, 2021 06:30 PM Brussels

    The Annual General Meeting of the BBCA will be held on Tuesday 25 May 2021 via Zoom in the presence of our Honorary President, HE The British Ambassador to Belgium, Martin Shearman CVO. The Zoom link for the meeting will be open from 18:30 with the AGM starting at 18:45. The agenda for the meeting is available here and the minutes of the previous AGM held on 15 July 2020 can be found here.

    Please register for the AGM via this link. For security reasons, only registered participants will be sent the link to access the Zoom meeting. If you have any difficulties accessing registration, have other queries about the AGM or wish to add an agenda item under ‘AoB’, please send a message to bbca.members@gmail.com

    If you wish to stand for election to the BBCA Conseil d'Administration (BBCA Council) for 2021-2022 a nomination form can be accessed here.

    If you are unable to attend the AGM and you wish to appoint a member of the BBCA Council to vote on your behalf, a ‘Proxy’ form can be found here. Current members of the BBCA Council are listed on the BBCA website here. Proxy forms and nomination forms must be returned to the BBCA before Friday 21 May 2021 via bbca.members@gmail.com.

    Please note that only paid-up members of the BBCA on 25 May 2021 are eligible to vote and to become members of the BBCA Council. Subscriptions for 2021 have been set at students €10, individuals €20, family €25, and groups €30 and can be paid by transfer to the BBCA bank account BE38 3631 6982 1172 BIC: BBRUBEBB. Please note the new bank account number.

    I look forward to seeing you at the AGM.

    Yours sincerely,

     

    Glenn Vaughan

    Chair BBCA

     

    Links:

    2021 AGM agenda – https://bit.ly/3eXXsyK

    2020 AGM Minutes - https://bit.ly/3h6pzi2

    2021 Registration link - https://bbca.wildapricot.org/event-4275226

    2021-22 Nomination Form - https://bit.ly/3elVsBi

    2021 AGM Proxy form - https://bit.ly/3h2qakJ

    2020-21 BBCA Council members - https://bbca.wildapricot.org/About-Us
  • 23 Apr 2021 8:23 PM | Tim Reynolds (Administrator)

    The Belgian Consultation Committee on COVID19 met today (23 April) and confirmed its previous timetable for relaxing the lockdown in the coming weeks. The details of how the relaxation will be implemented were announced.


    The announcement confirmed:

    1. End of the Easter break (outer bubble, shops and contact professions)

    The committee reconfirmed the end of the Easter break on 26 April. This means that from Monday it is possible to meet outdoors in groups of up to ten people.

    From Monday, traders can also receive their customers without an appointment. It is no longer mandatory to shop alone; you can be accompanied by another member of the household.

    Non-medical contact professions - including hairdressers and beauty specialists - are reopening under the conditions of reinforced protocols.

    2. Terraces opening

    The conditions for opening the terraces at bars and restaurants from 8 May have been set as follows:

    • Maximum of 4 people per table (or people from the same household)
    • At least 1.5 meters between tables
    • Seating at table only
    • Wearing a mask is compulsory for staff and customers whenever they are not seated at the table
    • Bar service is not allowed
    • Customers may occasionally and briefly be able to access the interior of the bar/ restaurant to use the sanitary facilities, to gain access the terrace, or to pay.
    • Opening hours are restricted to 8:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.

    3. Events

    The committee also endorsed the previous decisions relating to the cultural and events sector for the month of May. This concerns major events such as cultural and other performances, competitions and trade fairs.

    This means that outdoor activities for up to 50 people will be allowed during the month of May. A series of indoor test events will also be organized.

    In June, outdoor activities will be possible for up to 200 people. For indoor activities, the maximum room occupancy will be 75% of the CIRM (Covid Infrastructure Risk Model), with a ceiling of 200 people.

    Wearing a mask and respecting an appropriate physical distance will always be mandatory during indoor and outdoor events. For indoor events, participants should always be seated.

    4. Youth activities and clubs

    The committee reconfirmed that from 8 May organized activities (e.g. sports club or association) outside will be authorized with a maximum of 25 participants, for all ages, without public and without overnight stay. Children up to and including 12 years old can meet indoors with a maximum of 10 participants.

    From 25 June, indoor and outdoor activities will be permitted with a maximum of 50 participants. Regarding youth camps, overnight stays will also be authorized from this date. Fairs and flea markets and non-professional flea markets will also be authorized from June.

    5. Importance of vaccination and personal responsibility

    The gradual reopening of the economy and the resumption of social life must keep pace with the vaccination campaign. The Consultation Committee therefore calls on all citizens to be vaccinated: when you receive an invitation to be vaccinated, make an appointment immediately. The invitation is a ticket not only for your freedom, but also for the freedom of all of us.

    The relaxation of the rules is being done step by step. More freedom also means more individual responsibility. By ensuring everyone's safety in the days and weeks to come, we can look forward to a great summer.

    Original press release (in French) here.

  • 20 Apr 2021 2:24 PM | Tim Reynolds (Administrator)


    Full Circle - the Brussels-based 'ideas club' has a couple of interesting 'e-Salon' events on its agenda for April and May.

    First off is Hugh Pope in conversation with Ásdís Ólafsdóttir: Making Sense of the Middle East which is happening on Thursday 22 April from 7.00 to 8.30pm CET.


    Hugh Pope has lived and worked in the Middle East for more than 30 years. Get a unique perspective from a regional expert on the role of information in conflict. Unpick how understanding the context is a precondition for peace.

    More information and booking here.

    The second event is on Thursday 20 May from 7.00 to 8.30pm CET and asks: 'Is climate change the next big populist cause?' with public intellectual Catherine Fieschi.


    Is there any consensus among Europeans on the need to address climate change? Will policy making in Europe on climate issues further fragment our political landscape? Could it leave the way open for populists to take up the mantle of freedom fighters while climate supporters become more authoritarian? Unpack the meaning and political consequences of the latest research with us.

    More information and booking here.

    Find out more about Full Circle here.

  • 20 Apr 2021 12:36 PM | Tim Reynolds (Administrator)

    BBCA supporters The Fry Group are holding a webinar on 'Why you should consider building ESG investing into your portfolio' on Thursday 29 April 2021 from 11h00 (EU time). The webinar is free but requires prior registration. 


    There was a time when environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues were the niche concern of a select group of investors who tended to have strong ethical or socially responsible views. Times are changing though, and now many of us are keen to consider ESG investment in our portfolios.

    In this webinar you will hear from a panel of expert speakers who will be sharing their thoughts on why ESG is increasingly relevant and an approach that all investors should consider.

    The speakers include Charlotte Yonge, Fund Manager at Troy Asset Management and Andy Aitken, CEO & Co-Founder at Honest Mobile. There will also be an opportunity for Q&A with the panel and Charlie Buxton, Portfolio Manager at The Fry Group.

    What can I learn from this webinar?

    • What ESG investing means and why it's more relevant today
    • An overview of some of the key points
    • Examples of how companies and fund managers approach ESG investing

    Click here to register and receive the webinar link

  • 14 Apr 2021 10:06 PM | Tim Reynolds (Administrator)

    Today, 14 April 2021, the Belgian Consultation Committee met to decide on the modifications to the COVID-19 restrictions to coincide with the end of the Easter break. The decisions announced by Prime Minister Alexander De Croo are outlined below.


    1. Reopening of schools

    At the end of the Easter holidays, on 19 April, classes will resume under the regime in force before the Easter break. Specifically:

    • Nursery education, primary education, special secondary education, first level of secondary education and work-study training: 100% face-to-face;
    • Second and third level of secondary education: face-to-face at 50%;
    • Higher education: physical presence on campus one day a week.

    Examinations can take place face to face.

    If the COVID19 situation evolves in a favourable way, and after evaluation by the education ministers which will be submitted to the Consultation Committee, 100% secondary education in the classroom can resume from 3 May.

    2. Non-essential travel: strict testing and quarantine regime

    The ban on non-essential travel within the European Union will end on 19 April. As far as travel outside the Union is concerned, European rules still apply. A negative travel advisory remains in effect for all non-essential travel.

    Upon returning, travellers must follow a strict regime of mandatory testing and quarantine. The Passenger Location Form will allow the police to identify people who do not get tested on their return. Anyone who does not comply with the rules on screening risks a fine of 250 euros.

    3. End of the Easter break for stores and non-medical contact professions

    On 26 April, the Easter break will come to an end. From this date gatherings of up to 10 people outdoors will be allowed.

    From that date, stores will also be able to welcome walk-in customers again. Shopping will not need to be done alone, but you can be accompanied by another member of your household.

    Non-medical contact professions - in particular hairdressers and beauty specialists - will be able to reopen in accordance with reinforced protocols.

    At the same time, around thirty experiments and pilot projects will be launched to establish from a practical point of view and on the basis of scientific evidence the modalities of restarting different economic sectors safely and/or to avoid their closure in the future.

    4. 70% of people aged 65+ vaccinated and protected: outdoor plan

    On 8 May, when almost all of the over 65s will have been vaccinated and protected, a larger-scale outdoor plan will come into effect.

    Organized activities (that is to say activities of sports clubs or associations) may bring together a maximum of 25 people outdoors and for all ages, but without welcoming the public and without overnight accommodation. Children up to 12 years old can be indoors with a maximum of 10 persons.

    Moreover, the following will again be authorized outside:

    • Restaurants and cafes: outdoor terraces
    • Events (including receptions and banquets), cultural performances and religious services up to a maximum of 50 people
    • Amusement parks
    • Professional flea markets and second-hand goods

    The current curfew will be abolished and replaced by a ban on assemblies: between midnight and 5:00 AM in Flanders and Wallonia, and between 10:00 PM and 5:00 AM in Brussels-Capital Region, you can be in the public space with a maximum of three people or with members of one's own household (people living under the same roof).

    5. Two close 'cuddle' contacts at home

    Also from 8 May, you can welcome two people (rather than one) from the same household into your household at the same time, not counting children up to the age of 12.

    6. All people aged 65+ and vulnerable people vaccinated: a broader perspective

    A new important step will be taken when almost all of those 65 and over and those suffering from co-morbidities have been vaccinated. The Belgian government anticipates a high level of immunity in these groups to be achieved in the first half of June.

    If the data allows it, in particular the occupancy rate in intensive care, the "outdoor" plan will be further extended and an "indoor" plan may be considered for indoor activities, provided that the pressure on intensive care has been permanently reduced, so that quality of care is guaranteed for COVID and non-COVID patients.

    7. Importance of vaccination

    The Consultative Committee notes that, in some parts of the country, too few people show up for their vaccination appointment. Vaccination is the only structural exit option from the pandemic. Vaccines are safe and effective. The potential side effects are very rare and mild, especially compared to the symptoms of COVID, which are a thousand times more frequent and fatal.

    "Protect your life and those of your loved ones by getting vaccinated."


    You can find the original press release (in French) here.

  • 14 Apr 2021 4:14 PM | Tim Reynolds (Administrator)

    The Foreign Policy Centre - an outward-looking, non-partisan international affairs think tank based in the UK - has just published a report focusing on two unusual but strategically important British communities overseas - in Brussels and Washington DC - to which BBCA representatives contributed. 


    The report builds on the findings of 252 survey responses, interviews, a focus group and research to give a detailed summary of who the British communities in Brussels and Washington DC are, what their needs are and how the UK Government can better support them and other Britons around the world. It examines the UK's current support for its nationals abroad in the context of the different approaches taken by Ireland, France, Italy and a number of other countries.

    The report puts forward that British citizens can become partners in helping the UK achieve its foreign policy goals, as strategic soft power assets, provided that the partnership is based on trust and can be shown to be mutually beneficial. It therefore makes a number of recommendations for the UK Government to:

    • Develop a new UK Strategy for Citizens Abroad, with a dedicated unit at the FCDO and staff in embassies and missions to deliver that strategy, supervised by an identified Minister
    • Improve information management through a new Customer Relations Management (CRM) or other system to share information about key networks and retain institutional memory
    • Reimagine embassies, in part, as a flexible hubs for the British community and businesses
    • Invest in engagement with the British communities in Brussels and Washington through both professional and social events and activities
    • Improve online Embassy engagement with the British communities through improved websites, social media presence and regular email newsletters
    • Deliver on the commitment to end the 15 year cap on overseas voting rights, help people to vote and reconsider Parliamentary representation in the context of House of Lords reform
    • Enable consular services to better support complex case handling in country
    You can download the report - 'Global Britons: Understanding the unique British communities in Brussels and Washington DC' here. 
  • 9 Apr 2021 6:50 PM | Tim Reynolds (Administrator)

    UK citizens and their family members resident in Belgium before 31 December 2020 are covered under the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement and have the right to remain and work within the Kingdom of Belgium after Brexit. To assert that right we must apply for new residence cards to replace our current E/E+ cards that are for EU citizens. The new card is the M-card and although in theory we have been able to apply for it from 1 January 2021, technical difficulties (not helped by Covid restrictions) have meant it has not been produced. However, we hear that the cards are now becoming available, so we thought it would be timely to review the ‘ins and outs’ of residency, the M-card and the application process.


    All UK citizens resident in Belgium before 31 December 2020 should have received a letter in late 2020 from the Belgian Immigration Office informing them that they should exchange their current residence cards (E,E+,F, F+, Annex 8/8bis) for an Article 50 residence card: the M-card.

    To obtain the M-card, UK citizens and their family members will need to present themselves at their local commune/ gemeethuis prior to 31 December 2021, and preferably before 1 October 2021, to start the application process.

    What is the M-card?

    The M-card is a Belgian residence card that will be recognised as proof that you are resident in Belgium under the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement. The card is renewable and is valid for 10 years for those who already qualify for permanent residence in Belgium (hold an E+ card) and 5 years for those currently holding a temporary residence card (the E card). The M-card will continue to build rights towards permanent residency status – the clock is not reset.

    Achieving long-term permanent residency in Belgium may open a door to a form of onward movement within the EU subject to a number of conditions under the Directive on the status of non-EU nationals who are long-term residents.

    The M-card gives the holder access to the Belgian labour market as an employee or as a self-employed person, but no longer allows unrestricted free access to the labour market of other EU Member States. And there are specific rules for absences from Belgium.

    The deadline for applications is 31 December 2021 unless there are exceptional circumstances (for example force majeure), however it is much better to apply sooner rather than later.

    How do I apply?

    The application must be made at your local commune/ gemeethuis/ town hall. There, each family member will need to fill in an ‘Annex 58’ application form and will be issued with an ‘Annex 56’ form that is a certificate of application but serves as a temporary residence permit while your application is processed. See a French language version of an ‘Annex 58’ below.


    You will need to present the following documents at the town hall at the time of application or within three months of applying:

    1. Your current residence card (E,E+,F, F+, Annex 8/8bis)
    2. A passport or other valid ID card (remember the residence card is not a valid ID card). Note that your UK passport should have at least six months validity – i.e. not expire within six months.
    3. A Police Clearance Certificate/ extract from the criminal record/ Extrait de casier judiciaire which is not older than six months.

    No other documentation should be requested, and no one should be reassessed. The only time the Commune can ask for additional documents under the Freedom of Movement directive, such as proof of sufficient resources, medical insurance, etc., is if the applicant did not successfully complete a residency application before 31 December 2020 and, therefore, does not have a valid residency card or proof of application, or if they came to Belgium under EU family reunification rules.

    Some early applicants for the M-card, who are married to a Belgian or EU citizen, have been offered the chance to apply for an F-card (E indicates EU, F indicates Family). This is a personal decision, but rights under the F card, at least initially, would be dependent on someone else (your spouse) whereas protection under the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement (M-card) is tied to the individual.

    The town hall could approve the application immediately if you are already registered in Belgium and the criminal record check is null. When the M-card is ready you will be notified to collect it from the town hall. The issue of the new M-card may cost EUR15, however some communes may not charge. Others may charge more.

    How do I obtain a criminal record extract?

    If you have been resident in Belgium for six months or more then it is possible that your commune will do this automatically as part of the process. In any case you should be able to access an extract online via your commune website if you can access the eID system. The process (in general) is described here.

    If you were still living in the United Kingdom during the second half of 2020, you may need to provide an extract from the criminal records of the United Kingdom ('Police certificate for visa and immigration purposes'). For the UK you can obtain such a certificate via the ACRO website and we hear that communes have also been accepting certificates from the UK Government Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS).

    If you were living elsewhere outside Belgium, then a criminal record extract for that country may be required. You will be required to submit the extract most relevant to your situation. Remember to provide a legalized translation of the criminal record extract if it is not in Dutch, French, German or English.

    Who is eligible for an M-card?

    UK nationals and family members, irrespective of their nationality, who resided in Belgium prior to 2021 and continue to do so, including posted workers (if they qualify for residence), and holders of the Special ID Card. In addition, family members coming to Belgium in the future, but who do not yet reside in Belgium are also eligible if the relationship existed prior to 31 December 2020 and children born at any time are eligible.

    For Special ID card holders to obtain an M-card, the holder will need to cancel their existing special residence permit and then apply for the M-card within 3 months, which may affect certain privileges and immunities. For more information on Special ID card holders wishing to switch to the M-card see the Belgian Diplomatic Service website, and also contact your organisation’s HR department.

    All other family members not covered by the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement now fall under family reunification rules as third country nationals in Belgium.

    Your travel rights etc

    As of January 2021, and until 31 March 2022, UK nationals can prove their right to stay and work in Belgium (pending the issue of an M-card) with their existing E/E+/F/F+ card / Annex 8/ 8bis or their Annex 56 (issued to M-card applicant) plus their passport. Keep hold of your existing E/E+/F/F+ cards and your Annex 56 until a new M-card is issued and show this when crossing the border.

    Your passport will always be required, and you will need to use the ‘All passports’ lane when entering Schengen territories from a non-Schengen territory. The same documents as above can be used to (re)enter Belgium - except Annex 8 (which not a travel document) – but will only be accepted up to 31 December 2021.

    Office for Foreigners

    Normally, M-card applications will be processed within your Commune administration and the M-card issued by them (see flow chart below).


    Note that there are three very specific cases where the M-card application will be automatically sent to the Office for Foreigners/ Immigration Office for assessment (“Envoyer la demande à l’OE”). These are:

    • If a UK national has a criminal record
    • If a UK national does not have a valid Annexe 8/8bis or a valid E/E+/F/F+ card, or
    • If a UK national takes longer than 3 months (the validity of the Annexe 56 certificate of application) to provide the Commune with requested documents.
    If this is the case, the Immigration Office will examine the application further and take a decision. As soon as the Immigration Office has taken a decision, it will notify your commune. In the rare cases of a negative decision, an ‘Annex 59’ will be issued informing the applicant of the decision with a notification to leave the territory of Belgium.

    However, if the decision is positive, the commune will request your new M-card and inform you.

    Further information on living in Belgium, and your rights under the Withdrawal Agreement, can be found on the Living in Belgium Guide.

    Tell us your M-card experience

    We would love to hear about your experiences (good and bad) in applying for the M-card. Customer service at our townhalls can vary widely and sometimes laws are subject to local interpretation. Please relay your experiences to us via BBCA.NewsAndEvents@gmail.com. All information supplied will be treated in confidence – but don’t forget to include the name of your commune.

  • 2 Apr 2021 11:30 AM | Tim Reynolds (Administrator)

    Every year the Brussels Women's Club (BWC) raises funds for a couple of selected charities: one a Belgium based charity and the second a charity based in a developing country. 2021 is no different and, with the ongoing impact of COVID19, some might say it is now more critical than ever to support charitable organisations and activities. BWC’s 2021 initiative launched on 1 April and is entitled 'Brussels to Cairo'.

    What is the BWC fund-raising initiative for 2021? BWC aims to travel 10 000 km, exercising for Charity, from Brussels to Cairo and back. Two teams of 10 BWC members, one from the BWC main club and the other from the BWC Golf section, will be exercising their way from Brussels, home of charity Rolling Douche, to Cairo, home of charity FACE, and back again.

    Obviously, as Covid 19 restrictions are still in place, this 10 000 km journey will be a virtual trip, with each team member contributing about 1 000 kilometres to their team total, as well as carrying on their typical day to day activities. How will they do this? It is up to the individual team members!

    They can walk, run, cycle, swim, golf or do anything they choose, as long as it is measurable in terms of distance, constitutes exercise, is not part of their normal daily routine, and is under their own efforts. They can do it individually, get together with others or both; again, it is their decision.


    Each week, individuals' kilometres will be collated, and the two teams' progress will be marked on a map on the newly refurbished BWC website so you can see how far the teams have travelled and where they are on their journeys. The chosen routes are marked on the map above and will take the teams through many different countries and cultures. Interesting information about the team’s location for each milestone they reach will be published on the BWC website. You can follow the teams’ progress on the BWC website from April 2021.

    This is an inspiring initiative that will raise money for good causes and - as a bonus - boost the fitness of BWC members. Find out more on the Charities page of the BWC website including how you can donate.

    About the charities

    Rolling Douche (Belgium) provides free personal hygiene services to homeless people through converted motorhomes specially equipped with decent sanitary facilities where everyone can take a shower. By bringing this valuable facility to homeless people, Rolling Douche can reach homeless people in a way that traditional static facilities cannot. Rolling Douche assists homeless people to maintain their dignity, a vital element in helping them to remain part of society.

    FACE (Cairo) helps orphans, street children and victims of abuse by offering services that address their needs. FACE's priority is to place children in a family, in society. Family reintegration is a priority, and institutional placement is the last resort. FACE aims to ensure the quality and sustainability of its activities and therefore invests heavily in training and capacity building with its local staff.

  • 30 Mar 2021 2:54 PM | Tim Reynolds (Administrator)

    The vast majority of us are eagerly awaiting our Covid vaccination. But what is the process in Belgium? What can we expect? How will we be notified? Priority for vaccination has been for care home residents and frontline health workers but now the invitations to be ‘jabbed’ are starting to be sent out to the public. BBCA council member Alan Davis got an invite on Wednesday 17 March and received his first dose of the Pfizer vaccine just two days later. BBCA News talked to him about the process.

    “I received an email with all the links to book an appointment on Wednesday afternoon - the 17th,” says Alan. "At first there seemed to be an issue with booking appointments, perhaps the system was overloaded initially, but with some persistence I got through and managed to book for the Friday. I was sent an eTicket by email with a Barcode and QR code with both of my dates.” Alan recommends that people show persistence if the booking system seems initially slow.

    The initial email to Alan was in French and Dutch, but you can find translations of its content in over 20 languages (including English) here. This first email contains advice and information on Covid and the vaccination process and a link and code to book an appointment. Alan chose to attend the Heysel vaccination centre because, once he was allowed in the system, it had appointments for the Friday.

    Letters are also issued, in addition to, or instead of email. Alan also received a letter some six days after the initial email. The letter also outlines the procedure and indicates that people unable to access the internet should ask a family or a friend to go online and make the appointment for them or to call to make the appointment booking.

    If people have technical issues accessing appointments, there is a dedicated helpline, but please do not hesitate to contact BBCA if you need additional help as we can link you to people who have gone through the process already and/ or can help you with making your appointment online.

    Once the appointments are booked the eTicket invite is sent. Alan’s invite is shown below. He got the Pfizer injection – the trade name for the Pfizer vaccine is Comirnaty. The Astra Zeneca COVID19 vaccine has the trade name Vaxzevria.

     

    In Brussels, the eTicket email also comes with instructions on how to access free travel to get to your nominated vaccination centre via STIB/MIVB using the Eventpass option on their ticket machines. “I have an over 65 pass, so I didn’t need to use that option,” says Alan.

    Heysel centre

    Alan was impressed by the smooth operation of the vaccination centre at Heysel.

    “It was generally a first-class example of Belgian bureaucracy at is best,” he explains. “You must have your ID or residents’ card with you and the invitation. You are controlled on entering the building with the appointment system seeming to limit arrivals to match the flow throughout the whole process.”

    “You register within 15 minutes of arrival, then at Heysel there were five vaccination lines to select, with roughly three people in each line before you,” he continues. “A student called me through, asked a few basic health questions, and then sleeve up and done.”

    “There was no undue wait or overcrowding. The authorities can clearly cope with the flow and looking at the space at the Heysel they could easily scale up many times as supply increases,” says Alan. “There is a 30-minute wait as you leave, I guess to catch any immediate reactions to the jab, and you get a biscuit and a Christmas chocolate while you wait. Then the registration process again to log your departure – all in all the whole experience, for me, door-to-door took around two and a half hours.”

    Tech driven

    The eTicket for the second dose appointment comes with the first, dated and coded, and this appointment must be confirmed via the website.

    Alan is concerned that the process is very tech driven, which could be a challenge for some people who are not so IT literate. “There are phone numbers too in the email invite to confirm appointments if you cannot access the website. You are also permitted to bring someone with you if you require assistance, but they must have their ID with them and, of course, there is wheelchair access and people available to carry you up the stairs if you can’t manage yourself,” explains Alan.

    Any side effects to report? “Only a slightly tender upper arm,” concludes Alan.

    Do not forget that the full protection provided by the vaccines takes 10-14 days to develop after the initial injection, so keep safe in the interim.

    More information on the COVID-19 situation in Belgium can be found here.

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