Legal representation of unaccompanied children

Belgium

Country Report: Legal representation of unaccompanied children Last updated: 30/11/20

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Every unaccompanied child who applies for asylum or is otherwise detected on the territory or at the border has to be referred to the Guardianship service at the Ministry of Justice. The so-called Programme Law of 24 December 2002 has established the service and procedures to be followed in such a case.[1]

Once identified as being a child, a guardian will be assigned to assist the child. The guardian represents his or her pupil in legal acts and has the responsibility to ensure that all necessary steps are taken during the unaccompanied child’s stay in Belgium. The guardian has to arrange for the child’s accommodation and ensure that the child receives the necessary medical and psychological care, attends school etc. The guardian has to see onto the child’s asylum or other residence procedures, represent and assist the child in these and other legal procedures and if necessary find a lawyer. It is now legally possible to cumulate the specific procedures intended at finding a durable solution for unaccompanied children (family reunification, return or right to reside in Belgium) with the asylum procedure,[2] while – prior to 2015 – one had to choose between the two or conduct them consecutively. In practice the Immigration Office often postpones the specific procedure while awaiting the results of the asylum procedure.

The guardian also has to help in tracing the parents or legal guardians. If that has not been done yet, the guardian can also introduce an asylum application for his or her pupil.[3] It should be noted, however, that a pending asylum procedure in practice could cause other procedures for finding a durable solution to be temporary suspended until a final decision is taken on the asylum application, since in that case Belgian authorities are not allowed to contact the authorities of the country of origin to assess whether return or family reunification is possible.

The guardian has to attend the different interviews at the Immigration Office and the CGRS, and should inform the child of the decisions taken in his or her regard in an understandable manner and language. In case of a negative decision the guardian should explain appeal possibilities and request the child to provide arguments to that end. He or she should also contact the lawyer to prepare the appeal, as well as the social worker in the reception centre to be able to prepare for possible consequences of the decision on the child’s right to reception.[4]

If necessary, a provisional guardian can be appointed immediately upon notice to the Guardianship Service; for instance when an unaccompanied child is detained, the directing manager of the Guardianship Service or his or her deputy shall take on guardianship.[5]

On 31 December 2019 there were 2,662 guardianships, of which 2,024 were new guardianships.[6] One guardian can take on several guardianships.

 


[1]Article 479 Title XIII, Chapter VI of Programme Law of 24 December 2002 (UAM Guardianship Law).

[2] Article 61/15 Aliens Act.

[3]Article 479(9)(12) UAM Guardianship Law.

[4] Article 11 UAM Guardianship Law; 9 Royal Decree Immigration Office Asylum Procedure; Article14 Royal Decree CGRS Procedure; Guardianship Service, General guidelines for guardians of unaccompanied children, 2 December 2013, available in Dutch at: http://bit.ly/2FFW1GG.

[5] Article 479(6) UAM Guardianship Law.

[6] Myria, Contact meeting, 22 January 2020, available in French at: https://bit.ly/2VhsVE6.

 

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