About the CGRS

Mission and Vision


Since 1988, the Commissioner General for Refugees and Stateless Persons (CGRS) has been taking decisions that have significant consequences for the applicant. It therefore carries great responsibility. Every employee of the CGRS aims to create an open, reliable and decisive organisation that offers protection to those who need it.

  • Open: the CGRS is accessible and works in a customer-oriented manner. Decisions are taken in a transparent manner.
  • Reliable: streamlined internal procedures and competent employees guarantee a reliable decision for every applicant.
  • Decisive: the CGRS must be able to anticipate changing situations quickly, e.g. in a country of origin. Speed and quality go hand-in-hand.



With a young and well-trained team, the CGRS strives to take an appropriate decision for every application as quickly as possible. Therefore, the employees work with integrity and in a respectful, unbiased manner.

  • Respect: an organisation such as the CGRS relies on tolerant employees with an open attitude and respect for the individuality, convictions and qualities of the other person.
  • Unbiased: the employees assess every application individually without any prejudices. Personal interests, preferences or feelings have no impact on the decision.
  • Integer: trustworthiness and honesty lie at the organisation's core. The CGRS recruits its staff on the basis of qualities such as empathy, sense of responsibility, decisiveness, professional commitment and loyalty.


International protection

Asylum means protection. The CGRS can protect a person by recognising him as a refugee or awarding him subsidiary protection. A refugee is a person who fears persecution in his country of origin. A person who is at risk of serious harm due to war or violence, or as a result of degrading treatment will be awarded subsidiary protection status.

The CGRS investigates every application on an individual basis. The Commissioner General takes asylum decisions in an independent manner.


The CGRS is responsible for issuing documents that show the civic status of recognised refugees and persons that have been recognised as stateless by the court of first instance. The recognised refugee can no longer obtain administrative documents from his national government. That is why the CGRS has the authority to supply these documents to recognised refugees.

Legal framework

The CGRS functions within a stringent legal framework.

In essence, the legal framework comprises the Geneva Convention of 28 July 1951 relating to the Status of Refugees, a number of texts from the European Union and Belgian legal definitions.

The Act of 15 December 1980 regarding access to the territory, residence, settlement and the removal of foreigners (the Aliens Act) contains definitions both for refugee status and subsidiary protection status.

The Belgian legal definitions in the Aliens Act that regulate the functioning of the CGRS are, to a large extent, the result of converting European directives. These directives are principally intended to implement a common European asylum system.

The cornerstone of international protection for refugees remains, however, the Geneva Convention of 18 July 1951. The CGRS also, therefore, carries out its task in accordance with the provisions of the Geneva Convention.

International legal texts

Geneva Convention of 28 July 1951 relating to the Status of Refugees, as amended by the Protocol of New York of 31 January 1967.

European Union legal texts

Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union O.J. no. C/326/02 of 26 October 2012.

Directive 2013/32/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 26 June 2013 on common procedures for granting and withdrawing international protection. 

Directive 2011/95/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 13 December 2011 on standards for the qualification of third-country nationals or stateless persons as beneficiaries of international protection, for a uniform status for refugees or for persons eligible for subsidiary protection, and for the content of the protection granted. 

Belgian legal texts

Act of 15 December 1980 regarding access to the territory, residence, settlement and the removal of foreign nationals (unofficial coordination).

Royal Decree of 8 October 1981 regarding access to the territory, residence, settlement and the removal of foreign nationals (unofficial coordination).

Royal Decree of 11 July 2003 for regulating the workings of and the judicial procedures for the Commissioner General for Refugees and Stateless Persons (unofficial coordination).

Royal Decree of 15 December 2019 for implementation of article 57/6/1, § 3, fourth section, of the Act of 15 December 1980 regarding access to the territory, residence, settlement and the removal of foreign nationals, establishing the list of safe countries of origin.


In order to conduct harmonised assessments of asylum applications, the Commissioner General draws up a policy. He does so completely independently.


Policy themes

The themes transcend the situation in the individual countries of origin. These are horizontal themes.

The policy themes are very diverse and relate to both legal concepts and asylum profiles, such as applicants for international protection who require special procedural guarantees as a result of their vulnerable profile.


The Commissioner General implements a policy that, on the one hand, transcends the policy themes in relation to countries and, on the other, focuses on one country of origin.

Country policy

When taking an asylum decision, the Commissioner General takes account of the specific current situation in the applicant's country of origin. He bases himself on the actual circumstances but also considers recent developments.

Per country, the Commissioner General can:

  • draw up a profile-specific country policy
  • draw up a policy that relates to the general security situation in relation to citizens, aside from a specific asylum profile.

What does the CGRS not do ?

Reception and guidance

The CGRS is authorised to investigate applications for international protection.

The Federal Agency for the Reception of Asylum Seekers (Fedasil) provides reception and guidance services for applicants. Fedasil manages the open reception centre and offers social, legal, medical and psychological guidance. After submitting the application, the applicant goes to the Fedasil's Dispatching Service in order to obtain reception and guidance.


Recognising stateless persons

The CGRS is responsible for granting refugee status or subsidiary protection status but does not recognise stateless persons.

Stateless persons can obtain recognition by submitting a unilateral petition to the family court at their place of residence. The CGRS supplies documents of civil status to recognised stateless persons.

The family court

Processing visa requests

The applicant applies personally to the Belgian embassy or consulate in the country where he resides.  The Immigration Office (IO) processes the applications. The conditions depend on the type of visa that has been applied for.

FPS Foreign Affairs

The Immigration Office

Family reunification

The CGRS is not responsible for supplying a visa for family reunification for close family members or recognised refugees or persons with subsidiary protection status. They can apply for a visa for family reunification from the Belgian diplomatic post in the country where the family members live. The IO will further process the application.

FPS Foreign Affairs

The Immigration Office

Documents for persons with the subsidiary protection status

The CGRS is authorised to provide documents of civil status to recognised refugees and stateless persons, but not to persons with the  subsidiary protection status.

The person with subsidiary protection status requests a birth certificate from the embassy of his country of origin in Belgium.  If this is not possible, the person with subsidiary protection status can approach the Justice of the peace Court in his town of residence, to obtain an Act of Notoriety. This document can replace the birth certificate in some procedures.

FPS Foreign Affairs

Justice of the peace Courts in Belgium

Regularisation of foreign nationals

If a person resides in Belgium and would like to apply for a residence permit for more than 3 months, he can apply for regularisation in exceptional circumstances in Belgium. This is only possible if the applicant cannot submit this application to the diplomatic post in his country of origin:

  • regular residence permit on humanitarian grounds (article 9 bis Aliens Act)
  • regular residence permit on medical grounds (article 9 ter Aliens Act).

The Immigration Office


The IO decides on the (forced) return of a foreign national whose procedure has come to an end. Fedasil is authorised to supervise and assist with the voluntary return of the foreign national.


The Immigration Office



The CGRS is an independent federal administration. The task of the CGRS is to offer protection to persons who are likely to suffer persecution or serious harm if they return to their country of origin. The Commissioner General first determines whether the applicant qualifies for the refugee status. If this is not the case, the Commissioner General studies whether the applicant qualifies for the subsidiary protection status. The CGRS studies each request for international protection in an individual, objective and impartial manner, in accordance with the Belgian, European and international regulations.

The CGRS also issues certificates and documents of civil status to recognised refugees and stateless persons.


The basic objective of the common European asylum system is that every third country national, regardless of the EU member state in which they apply for international protection, is entitled to a similar treatment of their asylum application and to similar reception conditions. To achieve this goal, the EU has been working on the harmonisation of the European asylum system since 1999 along a two-track policy: European legislation and practical cooperation.

The CGRS has always been at the forefront of building a common European asylum system. The mission of the CGRS includes the European and international dimensions of asylum policy.

The organisation


Dirk Van den Bulck


Dirk Van den Bulck has been Commissioner General for Refugees and Stateless Persons since 2005.

Dirk Van den Bulck obtained a law degree from the University of Leuven (KU Leuven).

In 1999 he was appointed assessor for the Permanent Commission for Refugees (VBV, the predecessor to the Council for Alien Law Litigation).

In July 2002, he started working for the CGRS as Deputy Commissioner where he was appointed as Commissioner General ad interim from September 2003 onwards. On 1 January 2005, he was officially appointed Commissioner General.

On 1 January 2010, 2015 and 2020 Dirk Van den Bulck's mandate was extended by 5 years.

Given the importance of European cooperation with respect to asylum, he has represented Belgium as a member of the board of the European Asylum Support Office (EASO) since November 2010.

image of deputy commissioner christophe hessels

Christophe Hessels

Deputy Commissioner (NL)

Christophe Hessels obtained his law degree at Ghent University.

As a lawyer at the Auditor's Office of the Council of State (2005), Christophe became familiar with asylum and migration procedures. In 2007 he joined the CGRS as a protection officer and subsequently became a researcher for Cedoca.

In 2011 Christophe joined EASO, where he worked on the development of a European COI function and the development of a common European asylum policy, known as 'EASO country guidance'.

As of 2018, Christophe was head of the Third Country Research Unit at EASO.

In January 2022, Christophe took up the position of Dutch-speaking Deputy Commissioner at the CGRS.


Sophie Van Balberghe

Deputy Commissioner (FR)

Sophie Van Balberghe has been Deputy Commissioner for Refugees and Stateless Persons since 2012.

Sophie Van Balberghe studied law at the Catholic University of Leuven (UCL). After obtaining her law degree, she completed a master's degree in human rights.

When she graduated she started working for the CGRS in October 1993. Over a period of seven years, she worked as a protection officer, supervisor and geographical coordinator ad interim.

After a period working for Fedasil, where she was appointed head of the French-speaking legal department, she returned to the CGRS as a protection officer in December 2011. She then ended up in the legal service.

On 1 August 2013, she was appointed Deputy Commissioner for Refugees and Stateless Persons.

Partners and links

The CGRS, as a central and independent asylum organisation, has daily contact with a wide range of national, European and international partners. These include governmental and non-governmental services, NGOs, European bodies and international organisations.

Information about the asylum procedure, tailored to the asylum seeker, can be found at : asyluminbelgium.be.