The updated AIDA reports on Belgium and the Netherlands document the latest developments and practice relating to the reception and treatment of people seeking international protection. Access to the asylum procedure was a particular concern in both countries, as Belgium had introduced a quota for asylum applications and the rest and preparation period currently takes around 12 months in the Netherlands.
Key developments in Belgium
Access to the asylum procedure: In November 2017 the Belgian Aliens Office introduced a quota allowing the registration of no more than 50 asylum seekers per day at the “Petit-Château” / “Klein Kasteeltje” in central Brussels. As a result, more than one hundred people, including families with children, were queuing outside the facility every day, many of them unsuccessfully. Civil-society organisations challenged the measure before the Council of State. On 20 December 2018, the latter concluded that the contested measure was a barrier to the effective exercise of the fundamental right to make an asylum application, as enshrined in the 1951 Geneva Convention and national law. It therefore suspended the measure introducing a cap on the number of asylum applications.
Following the judgment of the Council of State, the authorities did not manage to provide access to the asylum procedure to all applicants on their first day at the Aliens Office. During a couple of weeks, the access to the asylum procedure was therefore automatically refused almost one day per week, during the weekend, or during a holiday period. Asylum applicants, particularly single men, who were refused access were requested to come back the next day and were not accommodated for the night.
Reception capacity: In the beginning of 2018, the government decided to close 2,500 collective reception places and 4,000 individual places. By the summer of 2018, it became clear that – due to these closures and a growing number of asylum requests – the reception capacity had to be increased. The government therefore decided to keep 7 collective centres open. However, by the end of the year, the capacity of the reception system was still too limited, forcing the immigration office to refuse access to the asylum procedure and, subsequently, access to the reception system. In order to provide accommodation to all asylum applicants, the closure of many individual places was postponed.
Detention of asylum seekers: In 2018 the government made it a priority to apprehend so-called migrants in transit, who were subsequently sent to the detention centre 127bis. Many of them were released after a few days, and would regularly be apprehended, detained and set free again.
Key developments in the Netherlands
Access to the asylum procedure: The rest and preparation period should take maximum 6 days before the regular asylum procedure starts. However, due to capacity problems within the Immigration and Naturalisation Service (IND), the rest and preparation period currently takes around 12 months and thus substantially delays the start of the asylum procedure.
Supervised reception centres: As of 2019, minors that are at least 16 years old can be transferred to the Extra Guidance and Supervision Locations (Extra begeleiding en toezichtlocaties, EBTL). These are special and restricted reception centres for asylum seekers who have caused tensions or any form of nuisance at an AZC, e.g. by bullying other inhabitants, destroying material, being aggressive or violating the house rules of the Central Agency for the Reception of Asylum Seekers (COA).
Detention centres: During the last months of 2018, there has been a drastic reorganisation of the three detention centres. As of 2019, most immigration detention will take place in Rotterdam. The Dutch Council for Refugees has therefore started providing consulting services to asylum seekers in the Rotterdam detention centre, along with the ones that already existed at the Schiphol detention centre.
Family reunification: Following the CJEU judgement on 12 April 2018, a minor applying for asylum is still considered as such in the meaning of article 2(f) of the Family Reunification Directive, even when he or she reaches the age of 18 when he or she is granted a protection status and applies for family reunification.
*This information was first published by AIDA managed by ECRE