30 years of protection granted to persons fleeing persecution or serious harm
On 1 February 2018, the CGRS celebrated its 30th anniversary. When the CGRS was founded on 1 February 1988, it took over from the UNHCR (UN Refugee Organisation) the mission to assess asylum applications. Over the past 30 years, the CGRS has evolved in many ways. Besides a strong increase of its staff, increasing computerisation drastically changed its way of working. Moreover, the CGRS has been entrusted with more responsibilities over the years.
Increased number of asylum applications in the second half of 2018
In 2018, 23,443 persons filed an application for international protection at the Immigration Office. This is a higher figure compared to 2017, when 19,688 persons filed an application, but still much lower compared to 2015. In 2015, 44,760 persons applied for international protection in our country.
More particularly the second half of 2018 saw an increase in the number of applications for international protection. A similar phenomenon occurred in the Netherlands and France, whereas in other countries, a downward trend can be seen. It is hard to explain this phenomenon. Many factors are involved, among which the presence of a community of fellow-countrymen in those countries. The quality of the asylum system (in terms of reception and asylum procedure) in Belgium, the Netherlands and France probably also plays an important part.
Countries of origin
Most persons who applied for asylum in Belgium in 2018 came from Syria, Palestine, Afghanistan and Iraq, countries and regions sometimes still affected by serious armed conflicts.
The number of decisions remains stable
As was the case in 2017, the CGRS also took a large number of decisions in 2018. In 2018, the CGRS took 16,545 decisions concerning 21,159 persons who applied for asylum.
The need for protection remains high
In 2018, the CGRS considered in 49.1 % of its final decisions that the applicant was indeed in need of protection. In all, this involves 7,577 decisions granting protection status to 10,483 persons (including minors accompanying their parents).
Since 2015, the protection rate has more or less remained stable around 50 % (with a peak of 57.7 % in 2016). About half of all applicants need protection, due to the situation in the countries they come from.
- 39.8 % of all decisions were decisions recognizing refugee status. This status is granted to persons who left their country of origin because, as defined in the Geneva Convention, they fear persecution for reasons of nationality, race, religion, political opinion or membership of a particular social group.
- 9.3 % of all decisions were decisions granting subsidiary protection status to persons who run a real risk of suffering serious harm upon returning to their country of origin.
Drastically reduced backlog
The caseload of the CGRS depends on the influx of asylum applications, which is hard to predict and varies every year.
In 2018, the CGRS managed to eliminate its backlog almost completely. In April 2016, the total caseload of the CGRS (i.e. the number of dossiers in which the CGRS still had to take a decision) amounted to 18,400 asylum dossiers. This was due to the high asylum influx of 2015. At the end of 2017, the caseload was reduced to 7,279 dossiers. At the end of July 2018, it was reduced even further to 4,612 dossiers. The caseload was expected to be reduced, by the end of 2018, to 4,000 - 4,200 dossiers (to be considered as a normal caseload, i.e. a situation without backlog). Due to the unexpected strong increase of the number of asylum applications in the second half of 2018, this objective could not be achieved. At the end of 2018, the CGRS caseload amounted to 5,015 cases. In spite of the strong increase of the number of applications in the second half of 2018, the CGRS’s current backlog is still relatively low (800 to 1,000 dossiers). However, a strong increase of files transmitted by the Immigration Office is to be expected in the coming months. This will result in an increase of the caseload of the CGRS. In order to prevent a backlog over a longer period of time, the CGRS will need additional resources.
Mission carried out from a new location at the Brussels-Midi train station
In December 2018, the CGRS moved from its address near Brussels-North train station to the Eurostation building, a new location next to Brussels-Midi train station. The CGRS will continue its mission in a consistent way: grant protection status when protection is needed, and refuse protection when there is no need for protection.
The CGRS continues to follow the situation in the countries of origin very closely. When the situation changes, the CGRS adapts its policy. In this respect, its policy regarding Palestinians from Gaza was adapted in 2018.
From the same point of view, it is understandable that persons enjoying refugee or subsidiary protection status in another EU member state are usually refused protection in Belgium: because they can already count on a protection status, there is no reason to grant them also a status in Belgium.