The Immigration Office is the authority responsible for the registration of asylum applications.
The law foresees a three-stage registration process:
- The asylum seeker “makes” (présente) his or her application to the Immigration Office within 8 working days after arrival on the territory. An application at the border is made with the Border Police Section of the Federal Police immediately when the person is apprehended at the border and asked about his or her motives for entering Belgium, or with the prison director in penitentiary institutions. These authorities refer the application immediately to the Immigration Office. The asylum seeker receives a “certificate of declaration” (attestation de déclaration) as soon as the application is made.
Under the law, failure to apply for a residence permit after irregularly entering the country or failure to apply for international protection within the 8-day deadline constitutes a criterion for the determination of a “risk of absconding”. Non-compliance with this deadline can also be taken into consideration by the CGRS as one of the elements in assessing the credibility of the asylum claim. It is not clear if or to what extent these provisions are currently being applied.
On 22 November 2018 a maximum quota per day on the number of people who could make their asylum application was introduced. This measure was suspended by the the Council of State on 20 December 2018. The civil society organisations invoked, inter alia, Articles 6 and 7 of the recast Asylum Procedures Directive, to argue that the measure was unlawful. The Council concluded that such a measure constitutes a barrier to the effective exercise of the fundamental right to apply for asylum, as enshrined in the 1951 Geneva Convention and the national law. The Council further stressed the importance of Article 7(1) of the recast Asylum Procedures Directive, which obliges the Member States to make sure that every person, whether a minor or an adult, has the right to make an asylum request. In that regard, it found that the contested act was making it prima facie unreasonably difficult to gain effective access to the procedure.
While issues on the access to the asylum procedure had been reported in early 2019, this did not persist throughout the year. However, isolated incidents continue to be reported from time to time. On 18 November 2019 for example,65 people were not allowed to apply for asylum due to a lack of reception space and had to come back the following day.
- The Immigration Office registers the application within 3 working days of “notification”. This can be prolonged up to 10 working days when a large number of asylum seekers arrive at the same time, rendering it difficult in practice to register applications within the 3 working days deadline.
- The asylum seeker “lodges” (introduit) his or her application either immediately when it is made, or as soon as possible after the “notification” but no later than 30 days after the application has been made. This period may exceptionally be prolonged by way of Royal Decree, which has not occurred so far. When the application is lodged, the asylum seeker receives a “proof of asylum application” certifying his or her status as a first-time applicant (“Annex 26”) or a subsequent applicant (“Annex 26-quinquies”). The Immigration Office informs the CGRS of the lodging of the application.
The asylum section of the Immigration Office is responsible for:
- Receiving the asylum application;
- Registering the asylum seeker in the so-called “waiting register” (wachtregister/), a provisional population register for foreign nationals (this occurs at the stage of the lodging phase);
- Taking fingerprints and a photograph, taking a chest X-ray to detect tuberculosis; and
- Conducting the Dublin procedure.
At the Immigration Office, a short interview takes place to establish the identity, nationality and travel route of the asylum seeker. The Immigration Office and the asylum seeker, with the help of an interpreter fill in a questionnaire for the CGRS about the reasons why he or she fled his or her country of origin, or, in case of a subsequent asylum application, which new elements are being submitted. A lawyer cannot be present during this interview.
If Belgium is the responsible country under the Dublin Regulation, the file is sent to the CGRS. The questionnaire about the reasons for the asylum application and impossibility of a return to the country of origin is transferred to the CGRS as well. The asylum section of the Immigration Office is furthermore responsible for the follow-up of the asylum seeker’s legal residence status throughout the procedure as well as the follow-up of the final decision on the asylum application. This means registration in the register for aliens in the case of a positive decision, or issuing an order to leave the territory in the case of a negative decision.
Within the Immigration Office, the Closed Centre section is responsible for all the asylum applications lodged in detention centres and prisons, while the Border Inspection section is responsible for asylum applications lodged at the border. The three sections within the Immigration Office (Asylum section, Closed Centres section and Border Inspection section) follow the exact same procedure within the Immigration Office’s general competence, each for their respective ‘categories’ of asylum seekers.
There have been significant delays in the asylum procedure at the stage of the Immigration Office. Even though the lodging takes place no later than 30 days after the application has been made in accordance with legal standards, the first interview might be conducted more than several months later in certain cases. This is the case for subsequent applications or applications for which it is assumed that no other Member State will be deemed responsible under the Dublin III-Regulation. Applications in which there is a Dublin-hit will be treated in priority in order to meet the time limits set out in the Dublin III regulation.
 Article 50(1) Aliens Act.
 Article 50(2) Aliens Act.
 Articles 1(11) and 1(2)(1) Aliens Act.
 Vluchtelingenwerk Vlaanderen, ‘Opnieuw asielzoekers op straat: kroniek van een aangekondigde opvangcrisis’, https://bit.ly/303Pr3C ; Le Vif, ‘Des demandeurs d'asile trouvent de nouveau les portes closes au Petit-Château’, 18 November 2019, https://bit.ly/2R50xkI; De Standaard, ‘65 mensen kunnen geen asiel aanvragen in Klein Kasteeltje’, 19 November 2019, https://bit.ly/2sTibjA.
 Article 50(2) Aliens Act.
 Article 50(3) Aliens Act.
 Articles 51/3-51/10 Aliens Act; Articles 10 and 15-17 Royal Decree on Immigration Office Procedure.