General

Belgium

Country Report: General Last updated: 08/04/22

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Vluchtelingenwerk Vlaanderen Visit Website

During 2021, a total of 2,991 migrants were detained,[1] of whom several categories of asylum seekers: asylum seekers who arrive at the border, who are still systematically detained before being allowed to enter the territory, and asylum seekers who are detained during their procedure or those asylum detained based on the Dublin regulation (see Grounds for detention). In 2019, 6% of all migrants detained were asylum seekers who were detained at the border, 3% of all migrants detained were asylum seekers who have 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 2019, 773 migrants were repatriated in light of the Dublin procedure. This represented 21% of the total number of repatriations that year (3,743).[2]

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 located in Bruges (CIB), in Merksplas near Antwerp (CIM), in Vottem near Liege (CIV) and in Holsbeek (near Leuven). 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 provisions of the Reception Conditions Directive are still not applicable to them.

The government decided on 14 May 2017 to maximise the number of places in existing detention facilities. In 2019 the open reception centre (Holsbeek) has thus been turned into a closed centre for 60 women. The new 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 and the creation of a new quick-departure centre in Steenokkerzeel, the total detention capacity in Belgium will amount to 1,145 places in 2030.[4]

Nevertheless, nearly four years after the announcement of the so called “Master Plan”, it is still not clear whether these centres will appear under the present government. Additionally, the Government had announced the replacement of the centre in Bruges, as the condition of the current centre is deemed ‘very bad’.[5] 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. More recently, a proposalto create a new short-stay departure centre in Steenokkerzeel (next to 127 bis and Caricole) was made by the government, which would make removals more humane, comfortable and safe and promote better care for people who need to be repatriated swiftly.

In August 2018, the government opened five family units in the 127bis repatriation centre, as a result of which families with children were being detained again. Detention is applied where the family manifestly refuses to cooperate with the return procedure.[6] The articles of the royal decree allowing this practice was suspended by the Council of State in April 2019. Between august 2018 and April 2019 a total of 9 families were detained.[7] In July 2021, the Council of State annulled some provisions of the Royal Decree because it considered them unlawful. However, the Council of State maintained the possibility of locking up families with children for a maximum of 4 weeks.[8] A procedure before the European Court of Human Rights has subsequently been initiated to obtain the annulment.[9]

The current government, however, has agreed that it can no longer detain children in closed centres, as a matter of principle. New, alternative measures will be developed to avoid that this measure would be abused to make return impossible.[10]

While in detention, the CGRS prioritises the examination of the asylum application, although no strict time limit is foreseen.[11] The appeal must be lodged within 10 days after the first instance decision.[12]

 

 

 

[1] Information provided by the Immigration Office, February 2022.

[2] Myria, ‘Myriatics 13: Terugkeer, detentie en verwijdering van vreemdelingen in 2019’, May 2021, available at: https://bit.ly/3tRTL6I.

[3] For an overview, see Getting the Voice Out, ‘What are the detention centres in Belgium?’, available at: http://bit.ly/1GxZAJd.

[4] As announced by the secretary of state on his website, 22 March 2022, available in Dutch and French, available at: https://bit.ly/35n68ht.

[5] Chamber of Representatives, Policy Note on asylum and migration, 4 November 2020, available in Dutch and French, available at: https://bit.ly/3sJdgMd, 34. 

[6] Chamber of Representatives, Policy Note on asylum and migration, 26 October 2018, available in Dutch and French, available at: https://bit.ly/2sJL8uz,34.

[7] Council of State, Decision No 244190, 4 April 2019.

[8] Council of State, Decision No 251051 of 24th of June 2021.

[9] Vluchtelingenwerk Vlaanderen acts as an applicant in this procedure.

[10] Chamber of Representatives, Policy Note on asylum and migration, 4 November 2020, available in Dutch and French, available at: https://bit.ly/3sJdgMd, 34. 

[11] Article 57/6(2) Aliens Act.

[12] Articles 39/57 and 39/77 Aliens Act.

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