This week several Belgian human rights organisations released a report on the state of closed migration detention centres in Belgium. The report, the first of its kind in ten years, finds that the administrative detention of hundreds of asylum seekers and other undocumented people is a violation of their human rights and human dignity.

Caritas, Vluchtelingenwerk Vlaanderen, Ciré, the Jesuit Refugee Service Belgium, La Ligue de Droits de l’Homme and Mrax all found that administrative detention is being systematically applied and that one third of those detained are asylum seekers.The report illustrates that administrative detention is systematically applied for asylum seekers among others, who have been sent back from another EU Member State under Dublin III. However, the Dublin III Regulation, which had its transposition deadline on June 20 2015, lays down a strict proportionality requirement meaning decisions should be based on the risk of asylum seekers “absconding”. The authors believe that as the Belgian government continues to detain people who have been returned under Dublin, irrespective of their willingness to present themselves voluntarily at the Aliens Office, that they are in violation of the Regulation.

The report further finds that one third of the detained persons are asylum seekers from detention being systematically applied in the border procedure. This occurs despite criticism from both Belgian courts and the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, Nils Muižnieks.

The report ends with a set of recommendations asking the Belgian authorities to limit the use of detention in the name of the law, human dignity and democracy. Recommendations also include a prohibition on the detention of asylum seekers and especially children, limiting detention to an absolute minimum, ensuring accessible legal aid and the provision of legally binding criteria for the use of the public order justification as grounds for detention. The report was published one month after the Belgian State Secretary for Asylum announced that he intends to reinstate detention for families and unaccompanied children, a practice that had been suspended after Belgium was condemned by the European Court of Human Rights for this in 2010.

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