Belgian Town Seeks Immigration Control Through Language Requirement

<p>Flemish nationalists in small-town Belgium are hoping to keep immigrants out by requiring that all schoolchildren speak Flemish -- an attack on the droves of French-speaking immigrants that have descended on the country.</p>
May 15, 2008, 6am PDT | Nate Berg
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"Liedekerke has only 12,000 inhabitants, but its elected council has caused a stir by insisting on the 'Flemish nature' of the town. Not only must all town business and schooling take place in Flemish, true throughout Flanders, but children who cannot speak the language can be prohibited from holiday outings, like hikes and swimming classes."

"'België Barst!' says the graffiti on a bridge near the train station, or 'Belgium Bursts!' the cry of the nationalists who want an independent Flanders. But here they also want to keep the rich French speakers from Brussels - only 13 miles away and 15 minutes by train - from buying up this pretty landscape and changing the nature of the town."

"Some Flemish nationalists, like Johan Daelman, the leader of the right-wing, anti-immigrant Vlaams Belang party here and a town councilman, want to keep out French-speaking immigrants from Africa, all in the name of keeping Liedekerke 'unspoiled' - free of the crime and racial tensions of Brussels."

"'We don't want Liedekerke to become like a suburb of Paris,' Mr. Daelman said, describing the riots, car burnings and attacks on the police by mostly African immigrants to France. 'Big city problems are coming here, and we want to stop it.'"

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Published on Wednesday, May 14, 2008 in The New York Times
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