Differential treatment of specific nationalities in the procedure

Belgium

Country Report: Differential treatment of specific nationalities in the procedure Last updated: 01/04/21

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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 14 December 2020.

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 and months. 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 of asylum applications from Gazan Palestinians,[1] who were targeted by several dissuasion campaigns.[2]

To a large extent, the treatment of the request depends 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 who are not registered with the UNRWA are treated just like any other request for international protection, using the standard criteria and procedure from article 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 is not capable of protecting those whose individual safety is threatened following severe persecution and thus grants the refugee status to people in such conditions.[3] 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 in four judgments that the UNRWA was, despite financial difficulties, still operational and that the security situation in Gaza was generally speaking precarious but did not amount to systematic persecution nor inhumane living conditions. In addition to that, it ruled that the situation at the border crossing point in Rafah was stable and that applicants could safely return to Gaza. Only in individual cases with exceptional circumstances could Gazan Palestinians with UNRWA-support still be eligible for international protection in Belgium.[4]

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. As a result, the CGRS could on the basis of that information not correctly assess whether UNRWA could still provide the necessary protection in Gaza. After an update of the country information by the CGRS in the beginning of 2021, the CALL has rendered several decisions in the course of February and March 2021 granting the refugee status to UNRWA-registered applicants from Gaza, stating that the difficulties UNRWA is currently facing makes the protection and assistance it is supposed to offer to refugees in Gaza ineffective.[5]

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 in general, Salvadorians were in need of international protection.

In October 2019, the CGRS announced a policy change on its website following an increase of arrivals from El Salvador. The CGRS stated this could be the result of the reigning perception that Salvadorians automatically receive international protection in Belgium, which would no(t) (longer) be the case.[6] 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. The new Secretary of State Sammy Mahdi also made it a priority to send more people back to their country of origin. In this framework, during his first two months in office, some 120 applicants from El Salvador returned voluntarily after having received a negative result in their asylum procedure.[7]

On 5 November 2020, the CALL aligned its case law with the CGRS policy in three judgments rendered in Unified Chambers.[8] The CALL acknowledged that government protection in El Salvador is not always available or effective, but is nevertheless not absent either. The standard of proof to demonstrate the lack of efficient government protection is therefore 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 grant subsidiary protection. A fear for a return to El Salvador is in itself not sufficient to grant an applicant protection in Belgium according to the CALL. Only in specific individual circumstances can that suffice to be granted asylum. However, in three judgements rendered on 25 January 2021, the CALL annulled the decisions of the CGRS refusing international protection to Salvadorian applicants, stating that the country information about the risk for Salvadorians upon return to their country after having left because of extortion by the gangs, is too general and does not allow a concrete assessment of the precise risk incurred by these applicants upon return.[9]

 

 

 

[1]        CGRS Communication from 5 December 2018, available here on the website of the CGRS. Last access 13 January 2021.

[2]        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.

[3]        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.

[4]        CALL, Decisions No 28889; 228888; 228946 and 228949; 18 and 19 November 2019.

[5]        For example: CALL, Decision No 249 780, 24 February 2021; Decision No 249 955, 25 February 2021.

[6]        CGRS Communication from 10 October 2019, available here on the website of the CGRS. Last access 21 January 2021.

[7]        MO*, “België gooit de deur dicht voor asielzoekers uit El Salvador”, 18 January 2021, available at: http://bit.ly/3c7p2YY .

[8]        CALL judgments No 243 676; 243 704 and 243 705 of 5 November 2020.

[9]        CALL judgments No 248 102; 248 104 and 248 105 of 25 January 2021.

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