Hundreds of Afghans have had their asylum applications refused by Belgian authorities. They could face deportation to Afghanistan, where the Belgian Commissioner General for Refugees says the security situation has improved.
Belgium has processed the asylum claims of several hundred Afghan nationals, with most being refused protection.
In March, 2022, Belgium’s Office for the Commissioner General for Refugees (CGRS) issued 1,925 asylum decisions, affecting a total of 2,240 people. CGRS statistics for March show that of those, some 1,500 were rejections. Around one third of those who received a negative decision were Afghan nationals, according to the Belgian news channel VRT.
The negative decisions were issued on the basis of a new assessment on the situation in Afghanistan, six months after the takeover of the Taliban, VRT reports. "We analyzed the safety situation in Afghanistan over the past months. There is still violence, but no longer random or arbitrary violence," CGRS Commissioner General Dirk Van Den Bulck told the channel. "Not everybody is being targeted by the Taliban. Only certain categories of people," he said.
High rejection rate
Last August, Belgium held off before joining its neighbors Germany, the Netherlands and France in imposing a moratorium on forced returns to Afghanistan.
Sammy Mahdi, asylum and migration minister in Belgium, said then that no one would be sent back to a region that was dangerous. But he added that Belgian authorities would be examining the situation in Afghanistan "every day, every week," to find out if it was getting better.
Meanwhile in the months following the announcement of the suspension on deportations from Belgium, asylum authorities processed only the claims of those who were under direct threat or at risk of torture, such as human rights activists, journalists, those in the previous Afghan government or with links to the West, and sexual minorities.
Other asylum claims remained on hold until March, when some of the backlog was cleared, resulting in a disproportionately high rejection rate, Van Den Bulck explained. The overall rate of positive asylum decisions dropped substantially from February to March 2022.
Forced to sleep rough
Since last October, Belgium has been experiencing severe problems with the reception and processing of asylum seekers. New arrivals have found themselves sleeping rough outside reception centers, hoping to be able to submit their applications the following morning. According to ECRE, a coalition of non-government refugee organizations, the crisis has continued with the arrival of refugees from Ukraine leading to many applicants being denied access to the asylum procedure from early March.
Those Afghans whose initial asylum applications have been rejected will be able to appeal the decision, VRT reports, but if they fail, they could face deportation to Afghanistan. The UN refugee agency, UNHCR, has called for a halt to forcible returns of Afghans to Afghanistan as well as other countries in the region, such as Iran and Pakistan.