'Til coronavirus do us part': Lockdown separates newlyweds for months
For the past three months, Adrien Deslande has started his day with a Skype call to his wife Güncel. She is stuck in her home country, Turkey.
The pair married in January but have been separated ever since because of the COVID-19 lockdown travel ban.
Adrien, a 33-year-old tour guide, says he has received contradictory answers from the Belgian authorities over whether his wife can travel to Brussels.
Güncel, 29, was in Turkey waiting for a Belgian residency permit when coronavirus restrictions were put in place.
“There was this rollercoaster of 'maybe we have good news, maybe there is going to be an announcement'," said Adrien.
"I talked to someone who gave me something that seemed to be positive and then you receive an email or you talk to others who tell you 'no, no, this is not going to happen, you won’t be able to reunite.
"Until when? You don’t know. It was tough."
Belgium's foreign ministry has stopped family members of European citizens travelling to Europe since March.
The policy is in contrast with European Commission recommendations. All of this has made their separation even more frustrating.
“It truly feels that our marriage is not even real," he said. "Both in a legal sense because it seems not to matter to anyone the fact that we are married, and also in just a practical sense because we are just not one with the other.”
Güncel said: “This unclearness affected me a lot because I am a non-European citizen and I have basically no rights.
"It’s truly hard for me to get in Belgium and in any other EU country, even by getting a visa. We thought marriage would make things easier. But it didn’t."
The EU is expected to open its external borders in July, but the uncertainty over the travel restrictions feeds the anger and the frustration of many people who are claiming their right to rejoin their loved ones.
Belgium's interior ministry told Dailyrater the travel ban needs to be resolved at the EU level before anything can be done for Deslande.