NUMBER OF APPLICATIONS
In 2022, 36,871 persons submitted an application for international protection at the Immigration Office (IO). This includes 78 persons who arrived in Belgium as part of resettlement.
This number is much higher than in 2021, when 25,971 people filed an application. It represents an increase of 42 %. In 2021, an increase had already been observed in the second half of the year. This trend has continued, with a very high number of applicants in summer and autumn of 2022.
An average of 3,073 applicants per month were registered in 2022, compared to 2,164 in 2021. In September and October, even more than 4,000 applicants were registered. The last time so many persons filed an application, was in the autumn of 2015.
A similar phenomenon is observed in several EU countries. This is due to an increase in migration to the EU and a strong secondary migration within Europe. Belgium clearly belongs to the group of member states with the highest number of applications in relation to population. Other member states that also have to deal with a relatively high number of applications, are Austria, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Luxembourg and Greece. It is striking that the number of applications remains very low in the Scandinavian countries.
Belgium has clearly become an important country of destination. This is due to a series of factors, including both network factors (related to the organization of migration) and pull factors (related to the situation in Belgium). These may be factors linked to the asylum system (the organization of reception or the processing of applications), but also to aspects unrelated to the asylum system such as the socio-economic situation compared to other Member States, the possibility of (illegal) employment...
In 2022, 70.6% of the applicants were men compared to 29.4% women. For certain countries such as Afghanistan, the percentage of male applicants is even higher (93.2 %).
In 2022, the main countries of origin of applicants for international protection were Afghanistan, Syria, Palestine, Burundi and Eritrea.
In 2022, 4,652 persons filed a subsequent application for international protection. In terms of percentage, the proportion of subsequent applications compared to the total number of applications decreased compared to the previous year (12.6 % in 2022 compared to 20.9 % in 2021). This is mainly due to the sharp increase in the number of first applications. For certain top 20 countries such as Iran (38.1 %) and Iraq (45.1 %), the percentage of subsequent applications remains remarkably high.
In 2022, the Immigration Office registered 3,853 applicants for international protection, who declared to be unaccompanied foreign minors. This is an increase of 19.7 % compared to 2021. Following examinations by the Guardianship Service, 2,394 of them were provisionally considered to be actual minors. Not all examinations have been completed yet. 93.8% of the applicants for international protection who declared to be unaccompanied foreign minors, are boys and 63.7 % of them have Afghan nationality.
NUMBER OF DECISIONS
In 2022, the CGRS took 20,514 decisions for 25,066 persons. This is an increase of 10.8 % compared to last year.
In 2022, in 43 % of the final decisions, the CGRS considered that the applicant actually needed protection. As a result, the protection rate was almost as high as the previous year (43 % vs 43.5 %). In all, this involves 8,464 decisions granting protection status to 11,061 persons.
41.1 % of these decisions were decisions recognizing refugee status and 1.9 % of them were decisions granting subsidiary protection status.
In 2022, the highest number of recognized refugee statuses was granted to Syrians (2,499), Afghans (2,467), Eritreans (1,357) and Palestinians (760). The highest number of subsidiary protection statuses was granted to Yemenis (133), Somalis (130), Syrians (37) and Palestinians (23) in 2022.
The number of inadmissibility decisions (mainly subsequent applications and applications filed by persons who already obtained protection status in another EU Member State) decreased compared to last year, although their percentage remains high. In 2022, their percentage amounted to 17.9 % of all decisions. In 2021, this percentage was still 23.8 %. These cases should be treated as a priority. Leaving the inadmissibility decisions aside, the protection rate is 52.8 %.
This difference is even more evident if we take a closer look at the protection rate of some countries.
For Afghanistan, Syria and Palestine, the protection rate is 37.8 %, 84.6 % and 50.4 % respectively. But for decisions on the merits (without counting decisions of inadmissibility), the protection rate is 45.5 %, 96.1 % and 74.9 % respectively.
REDUCING THE BACKLOG
The workload increased slightly in 2022 (16,415 cases vs 15,685 cases). It would have increased more sharply, if the flow of files from the IO had increased compared to the increase in the number of applications.
The CGRS considers it extremely important that all applicants receive a decision within a short period of time.
Therefore, Dirk Van den Bulck (Commissioner General) leaves no doubt when it comes to reducing the backlog: "All of us at the CGRS will continue to do everything possible to reduce the backlog in order to return to the situation where all applicants receive a decision within a short period of time. This is as important as taking the right decision, which means granting international protection status to all those who need protection."
In 2022, the CGRS focused heavily on special actions in order to increase the number of decisions. For instance, the number of decisions in the period September-December 2022 increased by 25 % compared to the number of decisions in the same period in 2021.
The CGRS also continued to invest in the recruitment of new staff. Several selections were organized. In December 2022 and January 2023, 85 people were recruited. Following the allocation of an additional budget by the Council of Ministers on 9 December 2022, an additional selection will be organized. Additional staff members (of various profiles) will enter into service in April-May 2023.
Besides additional actions aimed at increasing efficiency of processing, those additional recruitments will lead to a sharp increase in the number of decisions in 2023.
The Commissioner General commented: 'Within a very short time, a change is to be expected, in the sense that the output of the CGRS will again exceed its input. It will then be a matter of reducing the backlog. The CGRS aims at reducing the backlog over a period of 2 to 3 years. This will depend on the evolution of the number of applications for international protection."