Access to detention facilities


Country Report: Access to detention facilities Last updated: 01/04/21


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. 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]

From 13 March 2020 until 15 July 2020, due to the covid-19 pandemic, visits from NGO’s and other instances were suspended. In April 2020 Myria was authorised to reprise their visits. Individual parliamentarians could continue their visits to the centre during this period, yet were denied access to the common area’s and detainees.[6]

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.[7] 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.[8] 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.[9] 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]        Internal memo of the Immigration Office dated April 22, 2020. For example, in terms of external visits, that memo states that to “staff, companies and externa suppliers, embassies, consulates, lawyers, interpreters…, the Complaints Commission, the Federal Ombudsman, Myria” will be granted access.

[7]        Article 34 Royal Decree on Closed Centres.

[8]        Article 36 Royal Decree on Closed Centres.

[9]        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