The Belgian authorities have rejected the visa applications of four Turkish imams who requested long-term visas to work in the country.
The Belgian Foreign Affairs Council supported the rejection decision given by Belgian State Secretary for Asylum and Migration Theo Francken, German daily Deutsche Welle reported on March 16.
According to Belgian media reports, Francken has declined the applications of 12 imams this year, saying they wanted to preach sermons in mosques unrecognized by the state. The Belgian Foreign Affairs Council also supported Francken's stance on unrecognized mosques.
Ten of the imams appealed against the decision, saying their religious freedom was being restricted. However, the council said the issue could not be handled within the scope of Belgian law due to the imams living outside Belgium.
The imams have the right to apply to the Belgian Supreme Administrative Court and then carry the case to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.
According to Belgian daily La Libre, there are 65 mosques in the country with links to Turkey's Presidency of Religious Affairs (Diyanet). Another Belgian daily, Grenzecho, said there were 300 mosques in the country as of 2015 but only 82 were recognized by the state.
The Belgian state undertakes part of the salaries of a number of imams on duty in mosques accepted by the state. The country's government on February announced plans to reserve 3.3 million euros of resources in order to support the training of imams.