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A Lack of Interpreters before the Belgian Courts

With the disappearance of borders within Europe, Belgian courts, particularly criminal courts, are facing interpretation problems.

With the disappearance of borders within Europe, Belgian courts, particularly criminal courts, are facing interpretation problems. Whether in Brussels or Ghent, the problem persists and may be the cause of many dysfunctions in the courts.

The courts of Ghent are currently affected by such interpretation difficulties that judges and lawyers are complaining about the considerable shortage of interpreters. This was confirmed by the President of the Court of First Instance of Ghent, Ingrid Mallems, who explained that the problem’s origin was the introduction of the Schengen area, which resulted in the removal of international borders.

In Brussels, where the courts suffer the most from the severe shortage of interpreters, the VRT indicates a postponement or a delay of several hours for cases on the docket. Numerous sources have confirmed this established fact and recount the problem through the intervention of lawyers, bailiffs and even volunteers who speak foreign languages and sitting in the courtroom in order to make up for the lack of interpreters. Interpreters, on the other hand, are forced to frenetically go back and forth between several ongoing hearings. Still others do not appear at the hearings, even upon a court summons.

However, it appears that the courts of Antwerp seem to have escaped this problem, with 140 qualified interpreters available. The reason for this is that the courts have a partnership with the University of Louvain and another school. These schools provide, under this partnership, specific training in legal interpretation to meet the particular needs of the courts.

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