Access to NGOs and UNHCR


Country Report: Access to NGOs and UNHCR Last updated: 10/07/24


Vluchtelingenwerk Vlaanderen Visit Website

Individuals applying for asylum at the border are placed in detention, which affects their possibility to access to NGOs and UNHCR. A coalition of 4 NGOs (MOVE) visits every closed centre on a weekly basis. Their visitors provide preliminary socio-legal support, and they try to ensure that a lawyer is appointed to applicants in closed centres.[1] Each of these visitors receives an accreditation by the Immigration Office, allowing them to visit the detention centres. This right to access the centres is, however, not enshrined in law.

Asylum seekers on the territory have easy access to NGOs. Specialised national, Flemish and French-speaking NGOs such as Vluchtelingenwerk Vlaanderen, Coordination and Initiatives for Refugees and Aliens (Ciré), Association for Aliens Law (ADDE), JRS Belgium, Caritas International, Nansen – to name only some – as well as Myria have developed a whole range of useful and qualitative sources of information and tools, accessible on their respective websites or through their first line legal assistance helpdesks.[2]

According to the Reception Act, reception facilities should ensure that residents have access to legal advice, and to this end, they can also make arrangements with NGOs.[3] However, there is no structured approach to this, so it depends on the reception centre. Currently, no information regarding such arrangements is available.

In any case, UNHCR’s role during the asylum procedure should be highlighted. In Belgium, the law foresees that UNHCR may inspect all documents, including confidential documents, contained in the files relating to the application for international protection, throughout the course of the procedure with the exception of the procedure before the Council of State.[4] It may further give an oral or written opinion to the Minister in so far as this opinion concerns the competence to determine the State responsible for the processing of an application for international protection, and to the CGRS, on his own initiative or at his request. If the CGRS deviates from this opinion, the decision must explicitly state the reasons for the deviation.[5]




[1] For more information see: MOVE, available at:

[2] The websites of Kruispunt Migratie-Integratie: (Flanders and Brussels) and of ADDE: (Wallonia and Brussels) give an overview with contact details of all the existing legal assistance initiatives for asylum seekers and other migrants.

[3] Article 33 Reception Act.

[4] Article 57/23 bis Aliens Act.

[5] Ibid.

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