Belgium: Report on the state of closed detention centres

Closed centre 127bis (Steenokkerzeel)

On 23 January several Belgian human rights organisations released a report on the state of closed centres for administrative detention in Belgium. Caritas, Vluchtelingenwerk Vlaanderen, Ciré and others worked to together to produce this report, which is the first of its kind in 10 years. The report arrives one month after the Belgian State Secretary for asylum announced that he intends to reinstate detention for families and unaccompanied children, a practice suspended after Belgium was convicted by the European Court of Human Rights in the past.

A large section of the report is devoted to the detention of asylum seekers, which is provided for in the recast Asylum Procedure Directive, the recast Reception Conditions Directive and the Dublin III Regulation. Even though the transposition deadline lapsed on 20 June 2015, the Belgian provisions still do not respect the requirements laid down in the Dublin III Regulation, which is reflected in the practice of administrative detention. The report states that one third of the detained persons are asylum seekers and detention is systematically applied in the border procedure. This occurs despite criticism from both Belgian courts and the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, Nils Muižnieks. In addition to this, administrative detention is also systematically applied for Dublin returns, with detention decisions ignoring the proportionality requirement and basing decisions on a “risk of absconding” of asylum seekers even though they present themselves voluntarily at the Aliens Office.

The report ends with a set of recommendations asking the Belgian authorities to limit the use of detention in the name of law, human dignity and democracy. These recommendations include a prohibition on detention of asylum seekers and especially children, but also limiting detention to an absolute minimum, accessible legal aid and legally binding criteria for the use of the public order justification as grounds for detention.

 

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The Asylum Information Database (AIDA) is a database containing information on asylum procedures, reception conditions, detention and content of international protection across 20 countries.