Much has been noted about Germany’s asylum policy and how the country has taken over 1.2 refugees, but little has been talked about the asylum policy of the country’s smaller neighbor, Belgium. What are Belgium's asylum procedures and how many refugees have they taken in?
Like any other country which has signed onto the Geneva Convention, all foreigners who enter Belgium have a right to apply for asylum. The Geneva Convention defines a refugee as any person who is persecuted for reasons of "race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion and is outside the country of his nationality… "
The first step to asylum in Belgium is submitting an application to the Belgian Immigration Office or CGRS. The asylum seekers are then sent to a reception center while the application is being processed. Asylum applications have to be submitted at least eight days after arrival.
In 2016, CGRS had a total of 22,207 decisions were made on 27,678 asylum seekers. 45.8 percent were granted asylum status and 11.9 percent were granted subsidiary protection. In 2015, 35,476 asylum applications were filed and 60.7 percent of the decisions were positive (both asylum and secondary protection together).
The asylum applications are processed by the CGRS, the Belgian asylum office, where it can take around 3 to 6 months to then process the asylum application. If the asylum case is rejected, a judicial appeal can be made against the decision within 30 days.
According to the Belgian Federal Agency for the Reception of Asylum Seekers or Fedasil, Belgium has over 24,000 reception places and over 1,500 staff in place to deal with reception. The asylum seeker may stay in a reception center for up to two months after asylum is granted. Refugees also get meals, accommodation, and medical and psychological support.
Asylum seekers will have to go through an interview where they explain their reasons behind the asylum application, if their case fits with the Geneva Convention and its definition of a refugee, there is a chance they may receive asylum.
Asylum in Belgium lasts for an unlimited amount of time if there is a positive decision. If a refugee does not receive asylum status, he or she may receive subsidiary protection, which only grants residence in the country for a limited amount of time.
An asylum seeker who comes just for economic reasons or out of poverty by itself isn’t likely to receive asylum.
"Failed" asylum seekers will not be able to stay in Belgium. They will have to leave the country and may be encouraged to leave via “voluntary return” where they will be given some money to return home.
For more information about the asylum process in Belgium, click here: https://cavaria.be/sites/default/files/asylum_in_belgium_en.pdf