Safe countries of origin

In the Royal Decree (RD) of 15 February 2019 Belgium has established a list of safe countries of origin. The CGRS processes asylum applications by applicants for international protection from safe countries through a special procedure. There is also a specific procedure before the Council for Alien Law Litigation (CALL).

What is a safe country of origin?

Several criteria determine a safe country of origin:

  • the legal situation in the country of origin
  • the application of the law
  • the general political circumstances
  • the extent to which protection is provided against persecution and abuse.

In order to assess these criteria, the Secretary of State for Asylum and Migration takes into account different sources of information, as defined in the Aliens Act.

What countries are included in the list?

The list of safe countries of origin was last updated in the RD of 15 February 2019. This RD is effective since 1 March 2019.

At present, the following countries are considered as safe countries of origin: Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, FYROM, Kosovo, Montenegro, Serbia, India and Georgia. These are the same countries as the ones mentioned in the Royal Decree of 17 December 2017.

This list is reviewed at least once a year, but may be reviewed more quickly, if the situation has changed in the countries of origin.

The asylum application by a safe country national

The CGRS gives priority to the treatment of the asylum application and first examines whether to take the application into consideration. In general, international protection is not necessary for citizens of a country, included in the list of safe countries. The applicant has to be able to clearly demonstrate that in his personal situation he has a well-founded fear of persecution or a real risk of suffering serious harm. The burden of proof lies more with the applicant.

The decision by the CGRS

A negative decision is possible:

  • a refusal to consider the asylum application: the statements of the asylum applicant do not clearly show that he has a well-founded fear of persecution or that there are substantial grounds for believing that he runs a real risk of serious harm.
  • a refusal to recognise the refugee status and a refusal to grant subsidiary protection status: if the motives are 'unfounded' or the applicant does not run a real risk of serious harm.

A positive decision is still possible after an individual assessment of the file:

  • the recognition of refugee status under the Geneva Refugee Convention
  • the granting of subsidiary protection status: if the applicant is likely to suffer serious harm in case of a return to his country of origin.

The appeal with the CALL

The applicant who receives a refusal to consider his asylum application has 15 days after this notice to submit an appeal before the CALL. The appeal is suspensive and the applicant may add new elements. There are shorter deadlines for the processing of the appeal by the CALL.

The CALL can

  • confirm the decision: the decision of the CGRS was correct
  • reform reverse the decision: the CALL does not agree with the decision of the CGRS and decides to grant refugee status or subsidiary protection status). The CALL can also change a recognition of subsidiary protection status into a recognition of refugee status or into a refusal of subsidiary protection status.
  • annul the decision: the CALL sends the asylum file back to the CGRS when the decision is not adequately motivated. When making a new decision, the CGRS must take into account the comments of the CALL as far as possible.
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