Reception starts at the arrival centre of Fedasil, the agency responsible for the reception of applicants for international protection and certain other categories of people. In the arrival centre, Fedasil makes a first social and medical screening of the applicants and verifies whether they are entitled to and interested in reception. If so, they are accommodated in the arrival centre until a reception place adapted to their situation is found. Fedasil will then allocate them a reception place where the asylum seeker will benefit from material assistance (i.e. accommodation, meals, clothing, medical, social and psychological assistance, a daily allowance – pocket money – and access to legal assistance and services such as interpreting and training). If the asylum seekers decide not to be accommodated by Fedasil, they are not entitled to these forms of material assistance, except for medical assistance.
Belgium has over 33,000 reception places in total. The network comprises collective and individual reception structures. It consists of a ‘first phase’ where applicants for international protection are accommodated for the first days/weeks of their procedure. After this short period, applicants are transferred to a more definitive place in the second phase of the reception network. This phase has collective and individual reception places. At the time of writing, the first phase had 2,843 places, and the second phase had 30,469 places. Collective reception consists of reception centres managed by Fedasil, the Belgian Red Cross or other partners. Individual reception comprises housing managed by the Public Social Welfare Centre (‘local reception initiatives’) or NGOs. The current reception model, the implementation of which started in 2016, generally assigns people to collective reception centres. Only asylum seekers with specific vulnerabilities or reception needs are directly transferred to specialised NGO reception structures or individual structures.
The reception centres are ‘open’, meaning the residents can come and go.
The right to reception ends once the procedure for international protection is finished. In the event of a positive decision, refugees (or beneficiaries of subsidiary protection) receive a residence permit and may start to look for their own accommodation. They are entitled to remain at the reception structure for an additional two months to allow them to find suitable accommodation. They may request assistance from a Public Social Welfare Centre.
Following a negative decision, the applicant receives an order to leave the territory. Those whose negative decisions are confirmed by the CALL are invited to go to one of the four Fedasil centres with ‘open return places’, where possibilities for voluntary return are discussed. In case applicants refuse to cooperate with their voluntary return, the Immigration Office is allowed to initiate a procedure of forced return, including the transfer of the person concerned to a closed centre. Fedasil does not manage the latter centres but the Immigration Office.