Access to detention facilities


Country Report: Access to detention facilities Last updated: 08/04/22


Vluchtelingenwerk Vlaanderen Visit Website

Lawyers always have access to their client in detention.[1] Access is granted to UNHCR, the Children’s Rights Commissioner, Myria and to supranational human rights institutions.[2] NGOs need to get the approval from the Immigration Office’s managing director in advance to get access to the detention centres.[3] In general, an individualised accreditation is issued for specific persons who conduct these visits for an NGO, as is the case for specific employees and volunteers of Vluchtelingenwerk Vlaanderen, the Jesuit Refugee Service, Caritas International, Point d’Appui and Nansen, who previously formed an informal ‘Transit group’ to work on topics related to administrative detention of migrants. Since January 2021, this informal ‘Transit group’ is succeeded by an official coalition known by the name Move ( Currently, the members of the steering Committee of Move are Vluchtelingenwerk Vlaanderen, JRS Belgium, Caritas International Belgium and Ciré. The coalition’s goals are pursued in collaboration with other NGOs working in the field of migration, such as Nansen or Point d’Appui. Move aims at carrying on the work initiated by the above-mentioned informal Transit group. The members of Move build on almost 20 years of experience in the field of immigration detention and possess vast expertise in the four specific pillars of the coalition:

  • visits and monitoring of detention centers, in order to provide psychosocial support, neutral information and legal aid to detainees. The visitors observe the conditions in the detention centers;
  • quality legal expertise offered to visitors and other legal practitioners, in order to increase access to legal defense for the detainees;
  • field observations and recommendations for concrete changes are carried out under the political pillar; to better pursue its objectives, the coalition also maintains close contact with politicians;
  • a media and communication pillar, that works on fundamentally questioning detention for migratory reasons in the public space.

Members of Parliament and of the judicial and executive powers can visit specific detainees if they are identified beforehand and if they can indicate to the managing director of the centre that such a visit is part of the execution of their office.[4] Journalists need the permission of the managing director of the centre and the permission of the individual asylum seeker; they are not allowed to film.[5]

The asylum seeker is entitled to visits from his or her direct relatives and family members for at least 1 hour a day, if they can provide a proof of their relation.[6] So called intimate visits from a person with whom the asylum seeker has a proven durable relation are allowed once a month for 2 hours.[7] All visits, except for the so called ‘undisturbed’ (intimate) ones, in case of serious illness and those by the lawyer, diplomats or representatives of public authorities, take place in the visitors’ room in the ‘discreet’ presence of staff members, who are present in the room but do not listen.[8] At the time of writing (March 2021), family visits are somewhat restricted because of the COVID-19 sanitary measures. All detained asylum seekers have the right to a visit by one adult person a week, minors can accompany an adult when visiting. The visit takes place behind a screen and while wearing masks, touching each other is strictly prohibited.




[1]  Article 64 Royal Decree on Closed Centres.

[2] Article 44 Royal Decree on Closed Centres.

[3] Article 45 Royal Decree on Closed Centres.

[4] Articles 33, 42 and 43 Royal Decree on Closed Centres.

[5] Articles 37 and 40 Royal Decree on Closed Centres.

[6] Article 34 Royal Decree on Closed Centres.

[7] Article 36 Royal Decree on Closed Centres.

[8] Articles 29-30 Royal Decree on Closed Centres.

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