Country Report: General Last updated: 21/04/23


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During 2021, a total of 2,992 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). Of the total of 372 asylum seekers who were detained, 132 were detained 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 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 2021, 366 migrants were repatriated in light of the Dublin procedure. This represented 18% of the total number of repatriations that year (1,984).[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” – 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 60 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 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.[5] The Government announced that the building works for the departure centre in Steenokkerzeel are planned for spring 2024 and that the realisation of the three detention centres in Zandvliet, Jumet and Jabbeke is planned between 2027 and 2029.

Nevertheless, nearly six 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’.[6] 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 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.

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] Information provided by the Immigration Office, February 2022.

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

[6] Chamber of Representatives, Policy Note on asylum and migration, 4 November 2020, available in Dutch and French, available at:, 34.

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