The CGRS uses the accelerated procedure for nationals of safe countries of origin. The list has been renewed by the Royal Decree of 14 January 2022 (see Safe country of origin).
In 2022, the CGRS also prioritised the cases of people with certain profiles coming from certain countries of origin with a relatively high protection rate. In 2022, it concerned persons with specific profiles coming from, for example, Syria, Afghanistan, Yemen, Burundi, and Ethiopia. Not all cases from applicants from these countries of origin are treated with priority; the profiles for which this prioritised procedure is applied are selected through an internal screening procedure. This practice will be maintained in 2023.
Burundi: In a judgment of 22 December 2022, the CALL, in a chamber composed of 3 judges, stated that the mere fact of having applied for asylum in Belgium constitutes a sufficient reason to prove a well-founded fear of persecution in Burundi. The CALL considered that country of origin information shows that the Burundi regime considers this category of persons as opponents. The CGRS has introduced a ‘cassation appeal’ before the Council of State (see Onward appeal to the Council of State) against the judgment of the CALL, stating that it does not agree with the legal motivation and that the judgment would have the undesirable consequence that all people with the Burundi nationality would almost automatically receive a status of international protection in Belgium. It announced that it will continue to examine Burundi applications on an individual basis.
Afghanistan: After the takeover of power by the Taliban in August 2021, the CGRS decided in mid-August to temporarily and partially suspend decisions on Afghan applications for international protection. If possible, refugee status was still recognised. The following decisions were suspended:
- Decisions about subsidiary protection;
- Decisions about the non-admissibility of a subsequent application, if the new elements provided by the applicant solely relied on the changed general situation in Afghanistan;
- Refusal decisions.
As of 24 May 2022, after updating the COI report and following some judgments of the CALL in cases concerning Afghanistan, the CGRS has fully resumed decision-making in Afghan cases. Overall, the CGRS indicates that the situation for many Afghans has clearly deteriorated. As a result, various “profiles at risk” can “count on refugee status”. Among these are journalists, human rights activists, political opponents and critics of the Taliban regime, people occupying certain functions under the previous government, staff members of the previous foreign military troops or foreign organisations, certain minorities, members of the LGBT community and other people opposing the conservative religious norms and values fostered by the Taliban rules, isolated minors or women not supported by a family network, family members of specific profiles at risk.
Concerning the need for subsidiary protection, the CGRS states that the level of indiscriminate violence has significantly decreased since the Taliban takeover. It highlighted that there still is violence in the country but that most attacks are acts of targeted violence. As a result, the CGRS evaluated that there is no longer a real risk of falling victim to indiscriminate violence in Afghanistan. Therefore, subsidiary protection status will no longer be granted based on the security situation.
This new policy was reflected in the protection rates of 2022: 43,9% of Afghan applicants received the refugee status (compared to 29,6% in 2021), whereas only 0,2% (compared to 16,7% in 2021) received the subsidiary protection status.
In several judgments of 12 and 13 October 2022, the CALL, in chambers composed of 3 judges, has examined certain issues that arise in the treatment of international protection applications by Afghan nationals.
As for the subsidiary protection status based on article 48/4, §2, c) of the Aliens Act (indiscriminate violence), the CALL has confirmed the view of the CGRS on the significant decrease of the level of indiscriminate violence since the Taliban takeover leading to the conclusion that not all Afghan nationals risk, merely based on to their presence there, a threat to their life or person due to indiscriminate violence. However, regional risks persist, and the CALL considers that it is up to the applicant to indicate how their personal circumstances increase the risk for them individually.
The CALL also considered that the socio-economic situation in Afghanistan does not constitute an ‘inhuman treatment’ in the sense of article 48/4, §2, b) of the Aliens Act. In this sense, the inhuman treatment must be caused by an intentional act or omission by an actor directed against the applicant. Although the socio-economic situation in Afghanistan has deteriorated since the takeover of power by the Taliban, this is not merely the consequence of this takeover but of a complex crisis for which not one specific actor is responsible. However, the CALL stressed that the current socio-economic situation could constitute a violation of article 3 ECHR and should be investigated in the context of issuing a return decision.
Concerning the risk of persecution for Afghans who fear being considered as ‘Westernised’ by the Taliban regime, the CALL has stressed that although applications of this group demand a careful approach, not all Afghans returning from Europe have adopted Western norms and values or would be considered as ‘westernised’ in Afghanistan. It is up to the applicant to prove that they have internalised Western values and norms or characteristics or behaviours in such a way that it cannot be expected of them to abandon these. Applicants in these situations cannot be considered as constituting a ‘certain social group’ in the sense of article 48/3, § 4, d) of the Aliens Act but can be granted refugee status based on their political or religious convictions. In two judgments rendered in January 2023, the CALL has further specified in which cases someone can be considered as ‘Westernised’.
For Afghan applicants belonging to the Hazara minority, the CALL has confirmed the view of the CGRS that the Taliban regime does not systemically persecute Hazaras. However, belonging to the Hazara minority can constitute an additional risk of being the victim of sectarian violence and societal discrimination. Combined with other risk factors (e.g., elements of westernisation originating from a region with high ISKP presence, …), persons belonging to the Hazara minority can be considered to have a well-founded fear of persecution because of their (perceived) political or religious convictions.
In a report published in October 2022, the organisation Nansen analysed the new policy of the CGRS in the context of Afghan applications for international protection. The organisation criticised some aspects of the new approach, such as the fact that not all Afghan applicants have been invited for a (new) interview after the takeover of power by the Taliban and that the examination of the need for subsidiary protection is not based on precise and up-to-date information from various sources.
Palestinians originating from Gaza: the treatment of requests for international protection from Palestinians from Gaza has been subject to many changes in the past years. For a long time, Palestinians from Gaza were almost always granted protection in Belgium. However, in December 2018, the CGRS announced a policy change following an increase in the number of asylum applications from Gazan Palestinians, who were targeted by several dissuasion campaigns.
The treatment of the request depends primarily on whether the applicant is registered with the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (hereafter UNRWA). Requests from those not registered with the UNRWA are treated just like any other request for international protection, using the standard criteria and procedure from articles 48/3 and 48/4 of the Aliens Act.
In principle, Palestinians from Gaza who are registered with the UNRWA fall under the exclusion clause of article 1D of the Geneva Convention. However, the CALL accepts that UNRWA cannot protect those whose individual safety is threatened following severe persecution and thus grants refugee status to people in such conditions. For other UNRWA-registered Palestinian applicants from Gaza, the CGRS only grants international protection if they demonstrate that the protection from UNRWA does not suffice.
In November 2019, the CALL ruled that the UNRWA was still operational despite financial difficulties and that the security situation in Gaza was generally precarious but did not amount to systematic persecution or inhumane living conditions. Only in individual cases with exceptional circumstances could Gazan Palestinians with UNRWA support still be eligible for international protection in Belgium.
Since July 2020, however, the CALL has annulled several decisions by the CGRS, ruling that the information on UNRWA it used in assessing asylum applications from Gazan Palestinians was outdated. After an update of the country information by the CGRS at the beginning of 2021, the CALL rendered several decisions in the course of February and March 2021 granting refugee status to UNRWA-registered applicants from Gaza, stating that the difficulties UNRWA was facing at that moment made the protection and assistance it is supposed to offer ineffective. In the following months, the CGRS systematically revoked its decisions in cases from UNRWA-registered applicants from Gaza pending before the CALL, often right before the hearing. Consequently, the cases were not decided on the merits and were remitted to the CGRS, before which they are still pending. At the beginning of June, the CGRS temporarily suspended the treatment of cases of UNRWA-registered applicants from Gaza due to the unclear and rapidly changing situation in Gaza. It counted on a swift improvement of the financial situation of UNRWA. As this was not the case, the CGRS lifted the suspension in mid-July and resumed decision-making, starting with the cases in which it had revoked the earlier refusal decision with an appeal pending before the CALL. The CGRS indicated that the possibility of obtaining assistance from UNRWA would be assessed on an individual basis and the granting of refugee status would depend on personal circumstances. In practice, UNRWA-registered applicants from Gaza were granted protection in many cases in the second half of 2021. However, the CGRS also indicated that “for cases in which refugee status is granted due to the lack of assistance from the UNRWA (given its current difficult situation), it may be possible that refugee status is ended if in the future (e.g. within a year), it is established that the assistance or the financial situation of the UNRWA is guaranteed again on a permanent basis.” In January 2023, the CGRS announced it would change the policy towards UNRWA-registered Palestinian applicants, using a more individualised approach. It considers that after having analysed the situation, the almost systematic granting of international protection on the mere basis of origin of these applicants is no longer justified. Moreover, the CGRS has established that certain persons that had received a protection status, have since then returned to their region of origin (e.g., Gaza). The CGRS prepares a review of their case, which could lead to the cessation or withdrawal of their protection status.
El Salvador: for years, people fleeing El Salvador almost automatically received asylum in Belgium. Given the omnipresent gang violence, intimidation and high death rates in the country, the CGRS and CALL accepted that Salvadorians generally were in need of international protection. In October 2019, the CGRS announced a policy change on its website following increased arrivals from El Salvador. The CGRS stated this could result from the reigning perception that Salvadorians automatically receive international protection in Belgium, which would no(t) (longer) be the case. The result is that, whereas until mid-2019, more than 90% of requests for international protection were granted to Salvadorians, now less than 10% of applicants receive protection.
On 5 November 2020, the CALL aligned its case law with the CGRS policy in three judgments rendered in United Chambers. The CALL acknowledged that government protection in El Salvador is not always available or effective but is nevertheless not absent either. Therefore, the standard of proof to demonstrate the lack of efficient government protection is low but should nonetheless be provided in every individual case. Furthermore, it ruled that the situation in El Salvador – though precarious and riddled with targeted violence – is not one of “indiscriminate violence” as defined in art. 15 (c) of the Qualification Directive as a condition to granting subsidiary protection. Concerning an individual fear for persecution or serious harm by the organised criminal groups, the CALL ruled that (1) there is no general risk for all Salvadorians returning after having abandoned the country and (2) a fear of extortion upon return is, in itself, not sufficiently grave to grant the applicant protection in Belgium. Specific individual circumstances must be evaluated on a case-by-case basis for a positive decision to be issued. In three judgements rendered on 25 January 2021, the CALL further refined its case law for what concerns cases in which the applicants had been the victim of extortion accompanied by death threats by the gangs. This raised the question as to possible repercussions towards the applicants upon return. The CALL found that the available country information did not allow to sufficiently assess the precise risk incurred by Salvadorians upon return after having left because of extortion by the gangs. It annulled the decisions taken by the CGRS, ordering further research on this matter.
Ukraine: Not long after the start of the conflict in Ukraine, the first Ukrainian refugees reached the gates of the already overwhelmed arrival centre ‘Klein Kasteeltje’. On 28 February 2022, between 300 and 400 applicants for international protection were standing in line to apply for asylum. Since the reception crisis is still ongoing and the reception network could not handle all new arrivals, the centre went back not to let single men access, thus preventing them from being able to apply for international protection. The situation remained similarly precarious in the following days. As of 2 March 2022, Ukrainian applicants were handed out a document informing them about the possible creation of a separate statute and procedure for them. They were recommended to come back the week after.
Following the activation of the European Temporary Protection Directive through the Council of the European Union decision of 4 March 2022, Ukrainian refugees can register for the granting of temporary protection status. More information about this status, the procedure and the content of the temporary protection is provided in the section on ‘temporary protection’.
Ukrainian nationals who do not fall within the scope of temporary protection, can apply for international protection following the general international protection procedure. However, the CGRA announced on 28 February 2022 that it would freeze the treatment of requests for international protection introduced by Ukrainian citizens. This means no decisions are taken, and no personal interviews are organised.
In January 2023, this was still the case, and the CGRS announced the suspension of these applications would endure as long as the temporary protection directive is applied.
4.19. Il découle de ce qui précède que si les sources consultées pour la rédaction du COI Focus du 28 février 2022 n’ont relevé jusqu’à présent aucun cas documenté de ressortissants burundais, demandeurs de protection internationale ou non retournés au Burundi en provenance de la Belgique et ayant été persécuté de ce seul fait, il n’en apparaît pas moins clairement que les sources, s’étant prononcées plus spécifiquement sur les Burundais ayant introduit une demande de protection internationale en Belgique, considèrent que le seul fait d’avoir séjourné en Belgique en qualité de demandeur d’asile est de nature à rendre une personne suspecte de sympathies pour l’opposition, aux yeux des autorités burundaises. Il ressort tout aussi clairement des informations résumées plus haut que le fait d’être suspect de sympathie pour l’opposition au régime en place à Bujumbura suffit à faire courir à l’intéressé un risque sérieux d’être persécuté du fait de ses opinions politiques ou des opinions politiques qui lui sont imputées. Il s’ensuit que, dans le contexte qui prévaut actuellement au Burundi, la seule circonstance que la requérante a séjourné en Belgique où elle a demandé à bénéficier de la protection internationale, suffit à justifier dans son chef une crainte avec raison d’être persécutée du fait des opinions politiques qui lui seraient imputées.
 CALL 12 October 2022, nr. 278 653 (recognition of the refugee status), available in Dutch on http://bit.ly/3zQHj9h; CALL 13 October 2022, nr. 278 699 (annulment of the CGRS decision), available in Dutch on https://bit.ly/3GDmD8v; CALL 13 October 2022, nr. 278 701 (rejection), available in Dutch on: https://bit.ly/3oaUj7m; CALL 16 January 2023, nr. 283 214 (annulment of the CGRS decision), available in Dutch on https://bit.ly/3zUzmAa; CALL 19 January 2023, nr. 283 647 (recognition of the refugee status), available in Dutch on https://bit.ly/3KuEiQY.
 Knack, ‘De Block gaat Palestijnen ontraden om naar België te komen’, 4 March 2019, available at: https://bit.ly/368goEV; MO, ‘Zo ontmoedigt ons land Palestijnen uit Gaza om hier asiel aan te vragen’, 24 September 2019, https://bit.ly/2NAnGux.
 See for example the judgments No 235 357; 235 359; 235 360 of 20 April 2020, where the CALL reformed the decisions of the CGRS and granted the refugee status to Palestinians from Gaza who demonstrated severe persecution threatening their individual safety.
 CALL, Decisions No 28889; 228888; 228946 and 228949; 18 and 19 November 2019.
 For example: CALL, Decision No 249 780, 24 February 2021; Decision No 249 955, 25 February 2021.
 CGRS communication “Asylum statistics 2021” on 10 January 2022, available here on the CGRS website. Last access 18 January 2022.
 CALL judgments No 243 676; 243 704 and 243 705 of 5 November 2020.