10 December 2015

The lastest AIDA update on Belgium highlights several shortcomings that asylum seekers face relating to accessing procedures and suitable reception; while the number of people seeking asylum in the country has significantly augmented since late summer 2015.

Despite increased registration capacities, the Aliens Office decided to register a maximum of 250 asylum seekers a day. Consequently, many asylum seekers have been waiting for more than 10 days to register their asylum claims, thereby exceeding the European limit in exceptional circumstances.

According to the Belgian government, before registering, asylum seekers are not considered entitled to reception rights. As a result, hundreds have slept in shelters provided by the civil society, such as an open makeshift camp in September and, later, in pre-reception facilities, although limited to 1,000 places.

In parallel, since August 2015, the government created 10,000 additional accommodation places. However, the report notes that due to the larger demand, asylum seekers can receive adequate social, psychological and legal assistance, especially those most vulnerable, being people with specific reception needs. More restrictive rules prevent many asylum seekers from being assisted by qualified and experienced lawyers.

These shortcomings and challenges have been documented by the State Secretary in letters individually addressed to asylum seekers, notably those from Iraq and Afghanistan, with the clear intention of deterring them from applying for asylum and encouraging them to leave the country.

Finally, the report also notes that asylum seekers continued to be sent back to EU countries of transit, under the Dublin regulation, including to Italy and Hungary, despite serious concerns raised, among others, by ECRE.

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This article appeared in the ECRE Weekly Bulletin of 11 December 2015. You can subscribe to the Weekly Bulletin here.