In 2018, the Secretary of State for Asylum and Migration announced that finding a solution for migrants in transit was one of his top priorities. This resulted in an increase of detention for so-called ‘migrants in transit’. The Secretary of state presented a nine-point plan of action, which later became a 10-point plan of action. The main purpose was to fight migrant smuggling and to discourage migrants from passing through Belgium. This resulted in regular police actions during which migrants residing near Brussels North station were apprehended and transferred to a detention centre. Médecins du Monde published a report documenting police violence against these migrants. The reception capacity of the 127bis detention centre was extended to that end. Many of the concerned migrants, especially Eritreans, seemed to have protection needs, but had been fingerprinted in another Member State in which they had already applied for asylum. In 2019 these measures were continued and in practice the capacity of the 127bis detention centre (and to a large extent of the detention centre in Bruges) was still dedicated to this specific target-group.
Because of the covid-19 sanitary measures, the detention of migrants in transit was no priority throughout 2020 since the available detention capacity was limited. However, the new Secretary of State has ordered the opening of more confinement places in the detention centres in order to be able to detain more migrants without residence permit.
Vluchtelingenwerk Vlaanderen, “Migranten op doortocht in België – aanbevelingen voor een meer menselijke aanpak”, January 2019, available in Dutch at: https://bit.ly/2TjA5I7.
HLN, Transport company finds illegal migrants in shipping container, police immediately releases them: “Apparently, they could not be detained”, 17 April 2020, available in Dutch at: http://bit.ly/3rB9Fid
HLN, Increase of confinement places in detention centres, 22 February 2021, available in Dutch at: http://bit.ly/3qAtIvU