Country Report: General Last updated: 10/07/24


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Asylum seekers who arrive at the border are systematically detained before being allowed to enter the territory (see Border detention).[1] Asylum seekers can also in certain specific cases be detained during their procedure and based on the Dublin Regulation (see Grounds for detention). In 2021, a total of 372 asylum seekers were detained, 132 of which based on the Dublin Regulation. In 2021, 10% of all migrants detained were asylum seekers who were detained at the border, less than 1% of all migrants detained were asylum seekers who had entered the territory. Migrants who are detained under the Dublin-III regulation are not considered asylum seekers in the statistics. They do appear as a separate category in the figures collected for repatriations. In 2021, 366 migrants were repatriated in the context of the Dublin procedure. This represented 18% of the total number of repatriations that year (1,984).[2] In 2023, 648 persons applied for asylum at the border. No further data on the total number of asylum seekers in detention was provided for 2023.

Belgium has a total of 6 detention centres, commonly referred to as “closed centres”:[3] the 127bis repatriation centre, to which the closed family units have been attached; the “Caricole” near Brussels Airport; and 4 “Centres for Illegal Aliens” – as the authorities define them – located in Bruges (CIB), in Merksplas near Antwerp (CIM), in Vottem near Liège (CIV) and in Holsbeek (near Leuven).[4] In addition to the Caricole building, there are also some smaller Centres for Inadmissible Passengers (INAD centres) in the five regional airports that are Schengen border posts. Unlike the open reception centres, the detention centres fall under the authority of the Immigration Office.

The government decided on 14 May 2017 to maximise the number of places in existing detention facilities through what was baptised the “Master Plan”. In 2019, the open reception centre (Holsbeek) has thus been turned into a closed centre for 50 women; in practice, the capacity is limited to 28 women. The government coalition, that was inaugurated on 1 October 2020, has confirmed the construction of additional places. With the construction of two additional detention centres in Zandvliet (144 places) and Jumet (200 places), the construction of a new centre in Jabbeke (112 places) as replacement for the centre in Bruges[5] and the creation of a new quick-departure centre in Steenokkerzeel,[6] the total detention capacity in Belgium will amount to 1,145 places in 2030.[7] The building works for the departure centre in Steenokkerzeel have not started yet as of spring 2024 and the planning regarding the realisation of the three centres in Zandvliet, Jumet and Jabbeke remains unclear.

Nevertheless, nearly seven years after the announcement of the so called “Master Plan”, it is still not clear whether and when these centres will be created. Just as the creation of the 2 new centres, the replacement of Bruges seems to be blocked by local administrative and urbanistic obstacles. In the meantime, the government has announced that a budget has been made available to address the most urgent renovations.

In August 2018, the government opened five family units in the 127bis repatriation centre, which in principle makes it possible to detain children (see Detention of vulnerable applicants).




[1] The Immigration Office, in the context of its right to reply to the AIDA report, remarked that in the context of asylum applications at the border, every case is treated, and any detention decision taken, on an individual basis. Civil society organisations, however, observe that by far every person applying for asylum at the border is detained, and this based on a decision that contains a mostly standardised motivation. This issue has been confirmed by the Committee Against Torture (CAT): Although the State party explained that minors and their families are not detained at the border, the Committee remains concerned that almost all other applicants for international protection are detained, under article 74/5 of the Aliens Act, and that this practice is accepted by the Constitutional Court, which considers it necessary for effective border control (decision of 25 February 2021). However, the Committee notes that article 74/5 of the Aliens Act is intended to transpose into national law Directive 2013/33/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 26 June 2013, which allows for the detention of applicants only when it proves necessary and on the basis of an individual assessment of each case, if other less coercive measures cannot be applied effectively. The Committee also recalls that the European Court of Human Rights considered the practice of automatic detention at borders in the case Thimothawes v. Belgium and ruled that the routine detention of asylum seekers without an individual assessment of their specific needs was problematic (arts. 11 and 16).” See CAT, Concluding observations on the fourth periodic report of Belgium, 25 August 2021, available in English at, §29. It is also confirmed by the Belgian Refugee Council Nansen: ‘NANSEN remarque que la mesure de détention ne contient pas de motivation concernant la vulnérabilité dans des cas spécifiques. De plus, aucune évaluation individuelle systématique n’a lieu avant de procéder à la détention ou à la prolongation de la détention, pour déterminer si les principes de proportionnalité et de nécessité sont respectés: Nansen, Vulnerabilities in detention : motivation of detention titles, November 2020, available in French at 

[2] DVZ, Terugkeer, available in Dutch at:

[3] For an overview, see Getting the Voice Out, ‘What are the detention centres in Belgium?’, available at:

[4] In February 2022, the capacity in the detention centres is 40 in the 127bis repatriation centre, 45 in Caricole, 50 in Bruges, 69 in Merksplas, 35 in Vottem, and 24 in Holsbeek.

[5] The Government had announced the replacement of the centre in Bruges, as the condition of the current centre is deemed ‘very bad’ (Chamber of Representatives, Policy Note on asylum and migration, 4 November 2020, available in Dutch and French, available at:, 34).

[6] A proposal to create a new short-stay departure centre in Steenokkerzeel (next to 127bis and Caricole) was made which, according to the government, would make removals more “humane, comfortable and safe” and promote better care for people who need to be repatriated swiftly.

[7] As the Secretary of State announced on his website, 22 March 2022, available in Dutch and French, available at:

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