Legal assistance for review of detention


Country Report: Legal assistance for review of detention Last updated: 08/04/22


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The law provides for access to free legal assistance for the purpose of judicial review of the detention order. Free legal assistance is provided for in the Judicial Code under the same conditions as for other asylum-related procedures. A rebuttable presumption applies whereby the person detained is considered to not have financial means to pay for legal assistance (see section on Regular Procedure). The Royal Decree on Closed Centres also explicitly guarantees legal assistance for every resident of a closed centre and free and uninterrupted contact between him or her and his or her lawyer.[1]

In the closed centres in Vottem and Bruges, a legal permanence of lawyers used to be organised by the bureau for legal assistance of the bar association. Due to COVID-19, these permanences were stopped in Bruges and held by telephone in Vottem. Their service is mainly limited to assigning a “pro-Deo” lawyer who is not present but has to ensure free legal assistance. The other centres have no first line legal assistance service and the assignment of a lawyer depends entirely on the social services in the centre.[2] The “Transit group” coordinates a system of regular visitors that monitors migrants entering detention, provides them with free first line advice and refers them to an NGO for more specialised assistance if necessary.

In practice, asylum seekers are often referred to inexperienced lawyers.  Even if some bar associations, like the Brussels one, use short lists of lawyers that have expressed interest in assisting detained asylum seekers, these lists do not have specific qualification requirements. The system organised by the law does not offer sufficient means to enable lawyers to specialise themselves in migration and asylum law. Due to recent changes in the way pro-deo lawyers are remunerated, a decline in the number of beneficiaries of legal assistance by experienced lawyers had been noticed. There is a structural shortage of qualified legal aid.

A report of December 2016 from the “Transit Group” shows that access to quality legal aid remains difficult. It reiterated that access to quality legal aid remains one of the basic principles that should be respected.[3] The concerns about the variable quality of legal aid in closed centres were reiterated in 2019 in a report published by UNHCR.[4] Despite various years having passed, these findings are still relevant at the moment of writing.




[1] Articles 62 and 63 Royal Decree on Closed centres.

[2] UNHCR Belgium, Juridische Begeleiding van verzoekers om internationale bescherming in België, September 2019, available in Dutch at:, 25 and 43.

[3] The full report can be consulted in French at:, or in Dutch at:

[4] UNHCR Belgium, Juridische Begeleiding van verzoekers om internationale bescherming in België, September 2019, available in Dutch at:, 38.

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