On 15 May, the Belgian government published a Royal Decree establishing its unchanged list of ‘Safe Countries of Origin’ of asylum seekers, which includes Kosovo, Albania, Montenegro, Serbia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, FYROM and India. Asylum seekers originating from these countries will continue to have their applications examined in accelerated procedures, as it is assumed that they are unlikely to have suffered persecution.
ECRE member organisations in Belgium, Ciré and the Flemish Refugee Council, along with the Human Rights’ League and the Association for the Rights of Foreigners have spoken out to reaffirm their strong opposition to the use of lists of safe countries of origin for asylum seekers in Belgium. According to these groups, accelerated asylum procedures do not respect the fundamental rights of asylum seekers. Asylum seekers from such countries face a higher burden of proof of persecution or mistreatment, a reduced amount of time for the decision-making process, with decisions usually returned within two weeks, reduced opportunity to appeal against negative decisions, and deportations are not suspended in order to allow applicants to stay in the territory while appealing a negative decision. Furthermore, asylum seekers from these ‘Safe Countries’ face additional restrictions on access to reception facilities.
The organisations point out that among the populations of supposed ‘safe countries’ are minority groups, such as the Roma, against whom discrimination is well-documented and widespread.
France removed Kosovo and Albania from its list of safe countries in 2012, but Belgium keeps them, illustrating the unequal chances faced by asylum seekers in different EU countries.