|Name in English||Number of staff||Ministry responsible||Is there any political interference possible by the responsible Minister with the decision making in individual cases by the determining authority?|
|Office of the Commissioner General for Refugees and Stateless Persons (CGRS)||487
The CGRS is responsible for examining applications for international protection and is competent to take decisions at first instance. The institutional independence of the CGRS is explicitly laid down in law. It thus takes individual decisions on asylum applications and does not take any instruction from the competent Minister – or State Secretary – for Asylum and Migration. However, under certain circumstances defined by the Aliens Act, the latter can be involved in asylum procedures. For example, the Ministry can ask the CGRS to re-examine a previously obtained protection status. It can also request from the determining authority to prioritise a specific case.
In 2021, the CGRS had a total of 487 FTE staff, out of which 259 FTE were caseworkers responsible for examining applications for international protection. During 2022 and in the first two months of 2023, around 170 new caseworkers were hired. The start of 50 to 70 new caseworkers is planned in March and April 2023, bringing the total to about 600 FTE staff. This number is higher than ever before and aims to eliminate the backlog of cases on the level of the CGRS (see also: Audit of the Belgian asylum authorities).
Regarding its internal structure, the CGRS is divided into geographical departments and units responsible for certain asylum procedures and/or certain asylum applicants. It has two vulnerability-oriented units that provide support to caseworkers dealing with specific cases, as will be discussed further below. The Dublin procedure, however, is conducted by the Immigration Office before transmitting the application to the CGRS.
The CGRS further has internal guidelines on the decision-making process to be applied by caseworkers on asylum claims. These guidelines cover a variety of issues, such as the application of the first country of asylum criteria, the processing of subsequent applications, applications requiring special procedural needs or involving LGBTI persons, as well as the conduct of the border procedure. However, they are not made available to the public. Moreover, new reports and policy changes relevant to the decision-making process are immediately communicated through an internal online network containing available country of origin information and other relevant guidelines on certain countries.
As regards quality control and assurance, the caseworker’s decision is discussed with a supervisor, reviewed by the head of the relevant geographical unit and finally approved by the Commissioner-General. The Commissioner-General thus reads and signs every decision and can decide to discuss any case further if needed. At the Immigration Office, however, no institutional mechanisms are in place to control the quality of decisions relating to Dublin cases.
 Article 57/2 Aliens Act.
 Article 57/6 §2(3) Aliens Act.
 Information provided by the CGRS, February 2022.