16 April 2015

A new AIDA Belgium report expresses concern around the continuous reduction of reception places for asylum seekers in the country. Following a drop from 23,800 reception places in 2013 to 19,000 in 2014, Belgium’s capacity at the beginning of 2015 fell once more to 17,400 places in addition to 1,800 places that can be made readily available in a few days in case of a sudden rise in asylum applications. By the end of the year, reception capacity is expected to shrink even further to approximately 16,600 reception places, as a consequence of budget cuts. The report by the Belgian Refugee Council (BCHV-CBAR) highlights that this reduction in reception space is taking place against a background of increasing numbers of protection applications in the country, which rose from 15,800 in 2013 to over 17,000 in 2014. The increase in applications has been coupled by a rise in positive decisions on asylum claims reaching over 36% in 2014, an unprecedented recognition rate in Belgium.

As the report details, the new Belgian Government, in office since October 2014, has expressed its intention to introduce a number of restrictive measures affecting protection seekers’ access to rights throughout the asylum procedure. Beyond gradual limitations on its reception capacity, Belgium is set to include more countries in its ‘safe country of origin’ list, thereby enabling asylum authorities to consider inadmissible the applications for international protection of these countries’ nationals. Asylum applications from these countries nationals are not examined in substance on the assumption that persecution is unlikely to occur in these countries.

Moreover, the government has stated they would increase the use of detention, including of families with children.

The Asylum Information Database (AIDA) is an ECRE project mapping asylum procedures, reception conditions and detention in Europe. The database covers 16 EU countries, and will soon be enlarged to include Switzerland and Turkey.

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This article was first published on the ECRE website on 16 April and subsequently appeared on the ECRE Weekly Bulletin of 17 April 2015. You can subscribe to the Weekly Bulletin here.