THE CGRS DURING THE CORONACRISIS

From 8 June onwards, personal interviews will gradually resume at the CGRS. The health of our staff, of applicants and other visitors remains a priority.

In order to protect everyone, both staff members and visitors, we will take the following protective measures:

  • Applicants will be invited at staggered hours.
  • Applicants have to wait outside until they are allowed to enter for their personal interview. The waiting room of the CGRS remains closed.
  • Wearing a face mask is mandatory on the way between the reception desk and the interview room. Wearing a face mask is not mandatory during the interview.
  • Plexiglass screens will be installed between all the persons present in the interview room. To improve the comfort for the lawyers, we also ordered extra tables. These will be delivered in August.

Here you will find a complete list of all the measures taken by the CGRS.

We created a video with practical instructions about the reception of applicants and lawyers at the CGRS. The video is available in Dutch, French and English.

The applicants receive together with their invitation letter an appendix with instructions about the corona measures at the CGRS. You can find this appendix here in twelve languages: Dutch, French, English, Arabic, Spanish, Turkish, Pashto, Farsi, Tigrinya, Somali, Albanian, Russian.

We give you hereafter some answers to frequently asked questions about our functioning during the Coronacrisis.

What happens if my personal interview is cancelled?

The applicants whose personal interview is cancelled, do not have to do anything. They will receive a new letter inviting them for a personal interview. The CGRS will gradually resume personal interviews as from 8 June 2020.

Which applicants does the CGRS invite first?

The CGRS aims to invite each applicant for a personal interview within a reasonable period of time. We opt for a gradual restart of the personal interviews so that the interviews are safe for everyone.

For this reason, the CGRS will initially focus on applicants staying in a reception center. The CGRS has made agreements with the reception facilities to prevent that ill or potentially infected applicants come to the CGRS.

Starting in August, we will gradually resume interviews with applicants who stay in private accommodation, as well as with minors and applicants who wish to be assisted by a  trusted person.

Still starting in August, we will resume sending invitations to couples with children. As a rule, parents will be invited on separate days, so that they won’t have to take their children with them to the CGRS.

However, it cannot be excluded that a couple will be invited on the same day. In this case, we ask them to entrust their children to someone else’s care, because it is advisable that their children do not accompany them to the CGRS. If they cannot find someone to take care of their children, the children may accompany them but will have to wait in the waiting room. Nevertheless, this should remain the exception. In order to ensure compliance with social distancing rules in the waiting room, the number of couples invited the same day will be limited to 2 couples per day.

Personal interviews with 5 participants will take place in a larger room with an additional plexiglass screen. Personal interviews of minors will also for the time being take place in these larger rooms and not in a room specially fitted out for minors.

Which measures does the CGRS take to guarantee the safety of an interview?

The CGRS has made arrangements with the reception facilities to prevent that ill or infected persons come to the CGRS. We also urge interpreters and lawyers to strictly follow this measure, and the CGRS will also look to it. Moreover, we guarantee that the social distancing and hygienic rules are observed during the interviews.

To protect everybody, both staff members and visitors, the CGRS takes the following protection measures:

  • We invite a limited number of applicants at staggered hours.
  • The applicants wait outside until they are allowed to enter for their personal interview. The waiting room of the CGRS is closed.
  • Everybody must wear a face mask on the way between the CGRS reception desk and the interview room. You can take off the face mask during the interview.
  • Plexiglass screens are placed in the interview room between all participants.
Can an interview take place through Skype?

The CGRS has decided to resume interviews at the CGRS. The numerous measures guarantee that the interviews can take place in all safety.

Can I submit new documents during the personal interview at the CGRS?

Yes, you can. In that case, the protection officer will ask you to put your documents in a file. To prevent infection with the coronavirus, the protection officer will only open this file after 24 hours to look at the documents.

The Protection Officer can also copy the documents. In that case, everyone must disinfest their hands after touching the documents. Documents in support of the application can also be sent by e-mail to cgra-cgvs.dispatching@ibz.fgov.be, clearly stating the name and file number.

Can I bring my children or a counsellor to the personal interview at the CGRS?

No. Applicants must make arrangements for their children to be taken care of. If you want somebody to accompany you to the CGRS, this person cannot wait in the waiting room of the CGRS.

Can I come to the CGRS to ask questions about the state of the procedure?

No. You can address your questions to the Helpdesk Asylum procedure at cgra-cgvs.Advocate@ibz.fgov.be or 02/205.53.05.

Can I come to collect an original document the CGRS withheld during the asylum procedure?

Yes, it is possible to collect original documents at the CGRS by appointment. To do so, please contact the Helpdesk Asylum Procedure at cgra-cgvs.Advocate@ibz.fgov.be or 02/205.53.05. You must be in possession of a receipt.

Recognized refugees or stateless persons must contact the Helpdesk Recognized Refugees and Stateless Persons at cgrefugees@ibz.fgov.be or 02/205.53.07.

Appointments are possible on working days between 10 a.m. and 12 noon  and between 2.30 and 3.30 p.m. Upon arriving at the CGRS, you must wait outside until a reception staff member comes to fetch you. You must wear a face mask all the time. It is preferable you come alone, not accompanied by children.

Currently, we cannot receive visitors who do not have an appointment.

Do I have to communicate a change of address by e-mail?

Applicants can inform us of their change of address by e-mail to the Helpdesk Lawyers cgra-cgvs.advocate@ibz.fgov.be. The CGRS will only consider the submitted address as the actual residence and not as the chosen residence. It remains important to communicate the change of address to the CGRS by registered mail.

Can social workers get access to the files of asylum seekers?

A formal authorization is needed to get access to a file. The applicant can authorize a social worker to get access to his/her file by sending a signed document granting authority to the CGRS.

What do I have to do if the CGRS is my chosen place of residence?

Currently, the CGRS Helpdesk is closed to visitors. The CGRS will gradually resume personal interviews as from 8 June 2020. To limit the number of visitors, access is restricted to persons who have an appointment for an interview. The reception desk remains closed to other visitors. They can reach the CGRS by phone, by e-mail or by letter. Applicants for international protection who have chosen residence at the CGRS and who wish to know if the CGRS has taken a decision regarding their application, can contact the Helpdesk Lawyers by phone (02/205.53.05) or by e-mail (cgra-cgvs.advocate@ibz.fgov.be). The CGRS can also inform applicants if they have received any mail from the Immigration Office.

Applicants who wish to receive a copy of their decision can submit their request by mail. We ask you to clearly mention your national number in the request.

Can I get a postponement to send remarks about the notes of the personal interview?

As a result of the gradual easing of measures, the various actors who support the applicants for international protection, can perform their tasks again (lawyers, social workers, translators, interpreters…). 

As a result, the Office of the Commissioner General has decided that article 57/5 quater of the law of 15 December 1980 will be fully applied again to the personal interviews from 1st August 2020 onwards.

All obligations and guarantees of this provision regarding the request for copies of notes of the personal interview, the communication of remarks about the notes of the personal interview and the assessment of these remarks by the CGRS will be applied again from 7 July onwards.

The request for copies of the notes of the personal interview must reach the CGRS within two working days after the personal interview and remarks must reach the CGRS within eight working days after the notification of the copy of the notes of the personal interview so that the CGRS can examine the remarks. The CGRS will examine every remark before taking a decision.

 

Transitional measure applicable to personal interviews until 31 July 2020:

The CGRS is obliged to take a decision regarding every application for international protection as soon as possible.

Article 57/5quater, § 3, paragraph 3, 2° and paragraph 4 of the law of 15 December 1980 obliges the CGRS to take into account the remarks that have reached us before taking a decision, with no exception.

The CGRS has decided to continue taking decisions regarding applications for international protection, if necessary before the applicant, the lawyer or the guardian have been able to make remarks due to circumstances, but not to apply article 57/5 quater, § 3, paragraph 5 of the law of 15 December 1980, so as to enable them to make their remarks afterwards when this is possible. Applicants, lawyers and/or guardians can make remarks they consider useful, as part of an appeal against this decision lodged with the Council for Alien Law Litigation.

This applies to copies of the notes of the personal interview sent by registered mail from 2 March 2020 until 31 July 2020.

Can I get a postponement to present an FGM (Female Genital Mutilation) certificate as a recognized refugee?

Currently, it is possible again to make an appointment with a doctor for non-urgent consultations, such as the obtainment of a medical FGM certificate. If you still have problems to do so, you can contact the service in charge at cgra-cgvs.FGM@ibz.fgov.be.

How long does an interview take?

It is recommended that the interview does not last too long (four hours at most, break not included) because the current circumstances may cause stress. This requirement is not motivated by any en-hanced risk of infection. If the protection officer thinks that he/she can round off the interview and avoid a new invitation, he/she can extend the duration of four hours with half an hour at most.

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