Country Report: General Last updated: 30/11/20


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A total of 8,158 migrants, including asylum seekers, were detained in the course of 2018.[1] According to Myria, this number includes asylum seekers at the border (2%) and asylum seekers who applied for asylum on the territory (12%).[2] However, this breakdown must be read with caution as it does not include the number of persons who were detained and subsequently applied for asylum, nor the persons detained for the purpose of a Dublin transfer. Given that these categories of persons receive an order to leave the territory, they are no longer registered as asylum seekers[3]. The Immigration Office has not published statistics on the total number of detained asylum seekers since 2018.

Belgium has a total of 6 detention centres, commonly referred to as “closed centres”:[4] 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 women. Two additional detention centres will be established in Zandvliet and Jumet. While the government has communicated that its current capacity is at 660 places,[5] these plans will bring Belgium’s detention capacity up to 1,066 places by 2022.[6]

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.[7] 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.[8]

While in detention, the CGRS prioritises the examination of the asylum application, although no strict time limit is foreseen.[9] The appeal must be lodged within 10 days after the first instance decision.[10]


[1]Dienst Vreemdelingenzaken, Statistisch jaarverslag 2018, available in Dutch and French at:, 9. The exact phrasing used is: ‘number of first detentions’.

[2] Myria,’ Myriatics 11, Terugkeer, detentie en verwijdering van vreemdelingen in2018’, January 2020, available in Dutch and French at: .

[3] Whereas under the stipulation of art 2 c) the Dublin-III regulation people are deemed applicants until a final decision on their application for international protection has been taken.

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

[5], ‘Eerste gesloten terugkeercentrum voor vrouwen geopend’, 7 May 2019, available in Dutch at:

[6] Chamber of Representatives, Policy Note on asylum and migration, 26 October 2018, available in Dutch and French, available at:

[7] Chamber of Representatives, Policy Note on asylum and migration, 26 October 2018, available in Dutch and French, available at:,34.

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

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

[10] 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