Shortage of places
Since September 2021 Fedasil can no longer provide a reception place for all applicants for international protection. The federal government increased the capacity of the reception network from 28,000 places to 34,020 places at the time of writing. Despite these efforts, single men are systematically denied access to the reception network. The reason for this is that Fedasil does not have sufficient available places, therefore it prioritises ‘vulnerable’ groups. Single men are considered to be the ‘least vulnerable’ group.
There is no exact number of how many single male applicants were left destitute over the course of the reception crisis. However, there is a waiting list for applicants who have obtained a court decision condemning Fedasil. In 2022 3,888 persons registered on this waiting list, out of which 2,826 received an invitation for a reception place. 2,722 persons responded to this invitation and received a reception place. At the time of writing, 1200 persons are on this waiting list and the average waiting time is 4 months. In the winter of 2022, NGOs estimated that around 5000 applicants for asylum seekers had to sleep rough during the winter. In March of 2023, Fedasil could not provide accommodation to 624 male applicants for international protection.
Average duration of stay
In 2021, the average length of stay of applicants for international protection in the reception system was 14.9 months.
Most applicants stay a considerable part of this period, or all of it, in collective reception centres. The law provides for accommodation to be adapted to the individual situation of the asylum seeker, but in practice places are primarily assigned according to availability and preferences under the reception model introduced in 2015. It was then decided that reception should mainly be provided in collective centres, while only certain cases would benefit from individual accommodation (see Forms and Levels of Material Reception Conditions).
The minimum material reception rights for asylum seekers are described in the Reception Act, mainly in a very general way. Fedasil puts them into 4 categories of aid:
- “Bed, bath, bread”: the basic needs that is a place to sleep, meals, sanitary facilities and clothing;
- Guidance, including social, legal, linguistic, medical and psychological assistance;
- Daily life, including leisure, activities, education, training, work and community services; and
- Neighbourhood associations.
Many aspects such as the social guidance during transition to financial aid after a person has obtained a legal stay, or the legal guidance during the asylum procedure and the quality norms for reception facilities have not yet been regulated by implementing decrees as the law has stipulated. Until then, those are left to be determined by the individual reception facilities themselves or in a more coordinated way by Fedasil instructions. Due to this, the quality norms for reception facilities are still not a public document, although they exist and were updated and agreed upon by all the partners of Fedasil in 2018. They contain minimum social and legal guidance standards, material assistance, infrastructure, contents and safety.
In 2015 Fedasil developed a framework to conduct quality audits based on these uniform standards. Setting minimum standards and an audit mechanism was difficult as different partners, such as the Red Cross, have developed their own norms and standards over the years. Moreover, some partners criticised the possibility to have audits being performed by Fedasil instead of an independent authority.
As of today, these audits are performed by Fedasil and there is still no independent and external monitoring system put in place. In 2019, 40 audits were conducted at all levels of the reception system (both by Fedasil and partners, and both in collective and individual shelters). In 2020, 30 audits were conducted. In 2021, 44 audits were conducted by Fedasil, both in collective reception facilities and in individual centres. In 2022, 43 audits were conducted by Fedasil, both in collective reception facilities and in individual centres. The findings are not public and only communicated to the reception facility concerned.
A Royal Decree regulates the system and operating rules in reception centres as well as on the modalities for checking the rooms. This contains several general rights for the asylum seeker, such as:
- The right to a private and family life: family members should be accommodated close to each other;
- The right to be treated in an equal, non-discriminatory and respectful manner;
- Three meals per day provided either directly by the infrastructure or through other means;
- The right to be visited by lawyers and representatives of UNHCR. These visits should take place in a separate room allowing for private conversations.
The extensive closure and re-opening of reception places in the past years caused many problems throughout 2019. This included poor reception conditions as it mainly involved tents and containers as well as poor quality of services provided during the asylum procedure and at reception centres as unexperienced social workers have been recruited, after the experienced social workers had to leave due to closure (see: Types of accommodation). Due to the reception crisis, the reception network has been at full capacity since September of 2021. No public documents are available about the impact of the reception crisis on the living conditions in the reception network.
In 2022 Fedasil conducted a study on its residents’ wellbeing, comparing collective and individual reception facilities. The residents of the former type of reception express an overall negative perception of their wellbeing. Almost all residents do not succeed in satisfying their basic physical and mental needs. They experience a lack of privacy and, feel isolated and a lack of control over their day-to-day life. The overall conclusion is that collective reception facilities provide “a difficult environment”. The residents of the individual reception facilities express an overall positive perception of their wellbeing. The residents obtain more freedom and autonomy in these facilities, which has a positive impact on their wellbeing. The study highlighted a risk of isolation in individual facilities. Residents who moved from collective to individual reception facilities experienced a positive change in their wellbeing.
Despite an increased wellbeing in individual reception facilities, the majority of reception places are in the form of collective reception facilities. At the time of writing, 16% of the reception places are individual reception facilities.
 Fedasil, ‘4000 places created in 2022’, 20 January 2022, available at: https://bit.ly/3JVzZz7.
 The Brussels Times, Fedasil faces almost 4,500 convictions for migrant reception crisis, 7 October 2022, available at: http://bit.ly/3xLaJ7S.
 VRT NWS, ‘Opvangcrisis blijft duren: ook in maart geen opvang voor meer dan 600 asielzoekers’, available in Dutch at: http://bit.ly/3KiGzyN.
 Information provided by Fedasil, February. The average is based on the duration of stay of all persons leaving the reception network in 2021 and is thus impacted by the temporary decision to stop Afghan asylum cases in 2021. There is no update provided about the average stay in 2022.
 Articles 11, 22, 28 and 36 Reception Act.
 Articles 14-35 Reception Act.
 Fedasil, About the Reception Centres, available at: http://bit.ly/1IuvC6u. This link is not available
 Court of Auditors, Opvang van asielzoekers, October 2017, 47-48.
 Information provided by Fedasil, March 2023.
 Royal Decree on the system and operating rules in reception centres and the modalities for checking rooms, 2 September 2018.
 Vlaamse Vereniging voor Steden en Gemeenten, ‘Lokale besturen zijn jojo-effect federaal opvangbeleid beu’, 13 November 2019, available in Dutch at: https://bit.ly/3ab3Y1i.