“The number of asylum applications filed in Belgium in 2015 has doubled compared to last year”, says Commissioner General for Refugees and Stateless Persons Dirk Van den Bulck. “In 2015, the CGRS decided in almost half of the asylum cases that the asylum seeker actually needed protection.” As a large number of asylum seekers came from conflict areas, the protection rate reached an all-time high.
- 1. 35,476 asylum applications in 2015
In 2015, the Immigration Office registered 35,476 asylum applications, i.e. an increase of 106.1 % compared to 2014. Especially in the second half of 2015, the number of asylum seekers rose significantly. Most asylum seekers come from conflict areas: 21.8 % of asylum seekers come from Iraq, 21.3 % from Syria, and Afghanistan completes the top 3 of countries of origin with 20 %.
It is noteworthy that more and more Syrians applied for asylum in 2015. In January, the number of Syrian asylum applications amounted to 167 cases, whereas in December 718 applications were filed. The number of asylum applications by Iraqi nationals was very high in August and September (2,167 and 2,207 applications), before decreasing again. From October onwards, a clear increase of Afghan asylum seekers can be noticed (up to 1,955 asylum applications in December).
In addition, significantly more unaccompanied minors applied for asylum in 2015: 3,919 individual asylum applications were filed. This number concerns persons who declared at the moment they filed their asylum application that they were minors. However, age assessment tests by the Guardianship Service showed that a relatively large number was of age when they filed their asylum application. It is still unknown how many persons were actually minor in 2015 because not all age assessments have been completed.
- 2. 60.7 % positive decisions
In 2015, the CGRS concluded in 60.7 % of its decisions on the substance that the asylum seeker actually needed protection. The total number of positive decisions was 8,122, concerning 10,783 persons (including minor children accompanying their parents).
- 50.5 % of these decisions were decisions granting refugee status. Refugee status is granted to persons who left their country of origin because they are persecuted for reasons of their race, nationality, religion, political opinions or membership of a particular social group.
- 10.2 % were decisions to grant subsidiary protection status to persons who run a real risk of serious harm upon returning to their country of origin.
The 60.7% protection rate in 2015 is an increase compared to the previous years. In 2014, 46.8% of the decisions were positive, and 29.4 % in 2013. This recognition rate concerns the number of decisions on the substance and do not include decisions taking into consideration or refusing to take into consideration multiple asylum applications. If the decisions taken for multiple asylum applications are included, the recognition rate for 2015 amounts to 52.5 %.
- 3. Countries of origin
The high number of recognition decisions can be attributed to the fact that most asylum seekers in Belgium come from countries suffering armed conflicts or war, whereas in the past, more asylum seekers came for instance from the Western Balkans.
The CGRS considers the security and human rights situation in Syria to be extremely problematic. It is obvious that Syrian civilians need international protection. In 2015, the CGRS granted a protection status to almost every Syrian applicant (97.64 %) - 2,443 decisions granting refugee status and 283 decisions granting subsidiary protection status (total number of decisions on the substance for Syria: 2,792).
The CGRS still considers the situation in Afghanistan to be problematic. In 2015, 77.3 % of Afghan applicants were granted a protection status: 414 decisions granting refugee status and 378 decisions granting subsidiary protection status (total number of decisions on the substance for Afghanistan: 1,025). But the situation in Afghanistan is not of such nature that every Afghan should be granted a protection status.
In 2015, the CGRS took 527 decisions granting refugee status and 286 decisions granting subsidiary protection status for Iraqi applicants (total number of decisions on the substance for Iraq: 1,126). In 72.2 % of Iraqi asylum cases, the CGRS granted asylum. However, the situation in Iraq is not of such nature that every Iraqi applicant should be granted a protection status. For applicants from Bagdad, the need for protection has to be assessed individually.
- 4. New recruitments and challenges
Due to the continuous increase in the number of asylum applications, the government has put additional means at the disposal of the CGRS in order to recruit 120 additional staff. Some of them have already started in the second half of 2015. After a thorough training, they will be fully operational in 2016.
The CGRS also continues its efforts to increase its efficiency. As a result of internal measures and an increased number of staff members, the number of decisions is set to rise to 2,500 decisions a month.
At the start of 2015, the total caseload of the CGRS amounted to 5,589 asylum cases. At the end of 2015, this had increased to 11,305 cases, for a normal caseload of 4,500. In view of the current high in the number of asylum applications, the workload will continue to increase. Additional reinforcement remains necessary to reduce the backlog and to keep up with the present influx.
Asylum statistics for 2015 are available on http://www.cgvs.be/en/figures.