Differential treatment of specific nationalities in the procedure


Country Report: Differential treatment of specific nationalities in the procedure Last updated: 30/05/24


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The CGRS uses the accelerated procedure for nationals of safe countries of origin. The list has been renewed by the Royal Decree of 7 April 2023 (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 2023, it concerned persons with specific profiles coming from, for example, Syria, Afghanistan and Burundi. 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.[1]

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.[2] 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.[3] Nevertheless, in 2023 the first instance protection rate for Burundian applicants remained high at 81%.[4]

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.[5] 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.[6] 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.[7] 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.[8]

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. The protection rates continued to drop in 2023: 35,1% of Afghan applicants received refugee status, whereas only 13 applicants received the subsidiary protection status. 64,6% of the decision given to Afghan applicants were a negative decision in 2023.[9]

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.[10] 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.[11] 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.[12]

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’.[13]

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.[14]

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.[15]

The Belgian authorities do not organise forced returns to Afghanistan. Fedasil is currently the only entity organising voluntary returns to the country, given that IOM suspended its voluntary return programme in August 2021. IOM has confirmed this suspension in 2023 after an internal evaluation indicating that the economic and humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan have reached unprecedented levels.[16] In 2023, Fedasil received 15 requests for voluntary return to Afghanistan. 10 persons effectively returned using the Fedasil return programme.[17]

As a result, the group of Afghan persons not receiving international protection but not being able to return to their country of origin and thus being stuck in Belgium in irregular stay is steadily increasing.[18] 

Palestine: Before the escalation of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in October 2023, the treatment of the request depended primarily on whether the applicant was 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 were 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. 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. 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.[19]

The past few years, there has been a lot of discussion about the granting of international protection to UNRWA-registered Palestinian applicants, the practice of the CGRS and the case-law of the CALL diverging on certain points (see AIDA report Belgium 2022 update). 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.

Following the escalation of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in October 2023, the CGRS first decided to temporarily suspend decisions to grant or refuse subsidiary protection status in Palestinian cases. This suspension only concerned cases of Palestinians from the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, in which the CGRS would have concluded to refuse refugee status on the basis of the Geneva Convention according to its policy as determined before 7 October. In December 2023 the CGRS completed the assessment, and it unblocked the suspended cases. According to the CGRS the situation in Gaza clearly indicates a need for international protection. The situation in the West Bank also merits a deeper assessment. However, the CGRS will thoroughly assess the individual need for protection in each case.[20] In practice, this means that Gazans (and Palestinians in general) have an increased chance of obtaining refugee status.

Ukraine: 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 CGRS 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 2023, the treatment of asylum applications by Ukrainian applicants remained frozen.




[1] Myria, Contact meeting 20 March 2024 and Myria, Contact meeting 25 January 2023, available in French and Dutch at: https://bit.ly/3KATnSl, 18.

[2] CALL 22 December 2022, nr. 282.473, available in French via https://bit.ly/3zOgi6o : 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.

[3] Myria, Contact meeting 25 January 2023, available in French and Dutch at: https://bit.ly/3KATnSl, 20-21.

[4] CGRS, ‘Asylum statistics December 2023, 12 Januari 2024, available at: https://bit.ly/420UFwY, 8.

[5] CGRS, ‘Afghanistan Policy’, 6 January 2022, available in English on: https://bit.ly/3IyzWpg.

[6] CGRS, ‘Afghan applications’, 24 May 2022, available in English: https://bit.ly/3GAVJyh.

[7] CGRS, ‘Afghanistan: New Policy’, 2 March 2022, available in English: https://bit.ly/35H5pIe.

[8] CGRS, ‘Afghanistan: New Policy’, 2 March 2022, available in English: https://bit.ly/35H5pIe.

[9] CGRS, ‘Asylum statistics December 2023, 12 Januari 2024, available at: https://bit.ly/420UFwY.

[10] For a resume of these judgments in Dutch and French, see the website of the CALL, ‘Specific issues Afghanistan’, 20 October 2022, https://bit.ly/3UbUECF.

[11] CALL 12 October 2022, nr. 278 654, available in Dutch on: https://bit.ly/407Weqd; CALL 13 October 2022, nr. 278 701, available in Dutch on: https://bit.ly/3oaUj7m.

[12] CALL 12 October 2022, nr. 278 654, available in Dutch on: https://bit.ly/407Weqd; CALL 13 October 2022, nr. 278 701, available in Dutch on: https://bit.ly/3oaUj7m.

[13] 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.

[14] CALL 13 October 2022, nr. 278 700 (recognition of the refugee status), available in Dutch on https://bit.ly/43pt0WR; CALL 28 March 2023, nr. 286 771.

[15] Nansen, ‘Asylum – Afghanistan: quality of the examination of the need for international protection’, 18 October 2022, available in Dutch on https://bit.ly/3GDwFGH.

[16] Myria, Contact Meeting International Protection’, 21 June 2023, available in French and Dutch on: https://bit.ly/3U1D9GU, 53-56.

[17] Myra, Contact Meeting International Protection’, 29 November 2023, available in French and Dutch on: https://tinyurl.com/bddp6ufc, 41-42.

[18] De Standaard, ‘Groen: ‘We creëren groeiende groep mensen zonder papieren’’, 10 June 2022, available in Dutch at: https://bit.ly/4dDShSa.

[19] 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.

[20] CGRS, ‘CGRS Resumes the processing of all Palestinian cases’, available at: https://bit.ly/4aZsvGM.

Table of contents

  • Statistics
  • Overview of the legal framework
  • Overview of the main changes since the previous report update
  • Asylum Procedure
  • Reception Conditions
  • Detention of Asylum Seekers
  • Content of International Protection
  • ANNEX I – Transposition of the CEAS in national legislation