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1© Vluchtelingenwerk Vlaanderen 2007 Auteur: VWV1© Vluchtelingenwerk Vlaanderen 2008 Belgium: shelter for refugees? Interdisciplinary course North-South UHasselt, 9/03/2011
2© Vluchtelingenwerk Vlaanderen 2007 Protection
3© Vluchtelingenwerk Vlaanderen Protection 2. Reception 3. Return and detention 4. Europe
4© Vluchtelingenwerk Vlaanderen 2007 What is protection/asylum ¬ 1951 Geneva Convention ¬Individual Persecution ¬Race, religion, nationality, political conviction, social group ¬Refugee status ¬ 2003 European Qualification Directive ¬death penalty, torture, armed conflict ¬Temporary ¬ Article 3 European Convention Human Rights ¬Humanitarian status ¬ Non-refoulement
5© Vluchtelingenwerk Vlaanderen 2007 Some figures ¬ Worldwide: ¬ 43 m refugees ¬83% in regions of origin ¬ Pakistan: 2 m refugees ¬ Iran and Syria 1 m refugees ¬South-Africa: asylum applictions in 2009 ¬Europe: asylum applications in 2009
6© Vluchtelingenwerk Vlaanderen 2007 Belgium applications (Kosovo, Iraq, Russia, Afghanistan, Guinea, Serbia, Macedonia) Refugee status: 2107 (Guinea, Iraq, Afghanistan, China, Russia) Subsidiary protection: 711 (Iraq, Afghanistan) 21,4% recognition rate first instance
7© Vluchtelingenwerk Vlaanderen 2007 No protection without good procedures
8© Vluchtelingenwerk Vlaanderen 2007 Immigration Department Registration of asylum application Where? at the border (immigration detention centre) on the territory (offices of ID Brussels) Fingerprints taken, documents handed over, statements given regarding itinerary, origin, reasons for application, nationality,… No lawyer Fedasil: assignment of a place in a reception centre Preliminary examinations “Dublin” – is Belgium competent MS? Examination of multiple asylum applications: only possible if new elements, new evidence/situation
9© Vluchtelingenwerk Vlaanderen 2007 Commissioner General for Refugees and Stateless Persons Hearing Examination application, first in relation to Geneva Convention, then subsidiary protection Presence of asylum seeker, interpreter, lawyer Lawyer can be present Not contradictionary Burden of proof Access to database country of origin information?
10© Vluchtelingenwerk Vlaanderen 2007 Newly created in 2006 Appeal within 30 days Petition: Written and very formal procedure – hearing Specialised court, but not suitable for asylum procedure Aliens Litigation Council
11© Vluchtelingenwerk Vlaanderen 2007 Dublin Regulation ¬ Determines which member state is competent for determination of asylum application ¬ Principle: only 1 member state is competent ¬ Different criteria: ¬Family members ¬Issuance of residence permits or visa ¬Illegal entry or stay ¬… ¬ Humanitarian or sovereignty clause
12© Vluchtelingenwerk Vlaanderen 2007 ¬ Eurodac (finger prints) ¬ Problematic: Greece ¬ Important role European Court Human Rights
13© Vluchtelingenwerk Vlaanderen 2007 MSS v Belgium and Greece ¬ ECHR Case MSS vs. Belgium and Greece ¬ 21 January 2001: Afghan asylum seeker through Greece to Belgium (February 2009), transfer despite urgent petition with Aliens Litigation Council, detention and street in Greece, no processing of asylum claim ¬ ECHR condemns Belgium and Greece
14© Vluchtelingenwerk Vlaanderen 2007 Dublin Regulation ¬ Consequences for Belgium ¬Dublin-transfers to Greece violation article 3 ECHR ¬Immigration Department and Aliens Litigation Council should hear objections to transfer decision ¬Minister suspended all transfers to Greece on 20 October Confirmed his decision. ¬Aliens Litigation Council procedure should be reformed ¬ Consequences for EU ¬Dublin-transfers to Greece violation article 3 ECHR ¬Reform Dublin regulation?
15© Vluchtelingenwerk Vlaanderen 2007 Reception crisis. Asylum crisis?
16© Vluchtelingenwerk Vlaanderen 2007 Reception of asylum seekers ¬ Right to reception for every asylum seeker: “in conformity with human dignity” ¬ What? ¬“Material assistance”: housing, food, clothing, counselling, voluntary return support ¬ Who? ¬Asylum seekers in procedure (appeal included) ¬Non-accompanied minors ¬Families in irregular stay with minor children
17© Vluchtelingenwerk Vlaanderen 2007 Reception of asylum seekers ¬ Who gives reception? ¬Fedasil: coordinating administration and operational (running ‘federal’ collective centres) ¬Partners of Fedasil (conventions): Red Cross and other NGOs, local Public Services for Social Welfare in cities and towns (individual housing) ¬Total: around places (“emergency” places included) ¬ Two phases ¬1st: collective centre ¬2nd: after 4 months option to apply for transfer to individual housing
18© Vluchtelingenwerk Vlaanderen 2007 Reception crisis Since May 2008, structural lack of reception places. Many asylum seekers do not get a reception place. 1. July 2009: emergency measures ¬Hotels: no counselling (asylum procedure frozen, but “de-frozen” now), also non-accompanied minors 2. October 2009: official decisions of “non- allocation” ¬Fedasil: saturation of reception network and transfer to Local Public Services for Social Welfare, for financial support ¬Many Public Services for Social Welfare refuse ¬Asylum seekers on the street
19© Vluchtelingenwerk Vlaanderen Legal reform ¬No right to reception from 3rd asylum application ¬Shorter delay to leave reception after negative asylum application 4. Public support for protection of asylum seekers disappears ¬Reception in hotels: wrong perception ¬Judges impose penalties on government: every day asylum seeker has no reception, government owes €500 ¬Pull-factor: increase in asylum applications, has increased burden on Commissioner General ¬Discussion on Common European Asylum Policy, or race to the bottom?
20© Vluchtelingenwerk Vlaanderen 2007 Asylum crisis? ¬Increase applications started 2008 ¬ in 2008 ¬ in 2009 ¬ in 2010 ¬Before 2009: increase due to multiple asylum applications. Now decreasing again. ¬From 2009: increase due to first applications from Serbia and Macedonia (after liberalisation visa- regime) ¬ Response Belgian government: official “preventive” missions, priority to applications from Balkan, reform appeal procedure ¬ Albania?
21© Vluchtelingenwerk Vlaanderen 2007 Return and detention
22© Vluchtelingenwerk Vlaanderen 2007 Voluntary return (Fedasil, Social Integration) Return counselling in reception centres is limited - Social assistance - Information on programmes of assisted voluntary return - No psychosocial counselling on return - Different reception partners, different methodologies After negative asylum application - Order to leave the country and the reception centre within 5 days - No time to work on return - Put on the streets, end up in illegality - Lack of coordination with Immigration Department
23© Vluchtelingenwerk Vlaanderen 2007 Forced removal (Immigration Department) 1. Detention in closed immigration detention centres ¬Rejected asylum seekers who end up on the streets without counselling, eventually arrested and detained ¬Detention is not a measure of last resort in Belgium ¬6 detention centres (capacity 568) ¬Maximum 2 months, 2 months prolongation by Immigration, 1 months prolongation by Minister (but counting back from 0 if no cooperation with forced removal operation)
24© Vluchtelingenwerk Vlaanderen 2007 Forced removal (Immigration Department) 2. “Return houses” for families with minor children ¬First alternative to detention in Belgium, since 2008 ¬Open, individual housing and intensive counselling by coaches of the Immigration Department ¬Until January 2011 (129 families) ¬ 55 families return (43%) ¬ 29 families absconded (22%) ¬ 44 families released (34%)
25© Vluchtelingenwerk Vlaanderen 2007 And meanwhile in Europe?
26© Vluchtelingenwerk Vlaanderen 2007 Common European Asylum policy? - Initial objective of EU Member States cooperation= prevent asylum shopping between them and ensure that only one Member State is responsible for asylum application - Minimum standards (definition, procedures, reception,…). Further harmonisation is very difficult ? 2012? - Practical cooperation
27© Vluchtelingenwerk Vlaanderen 2007 Outcomes ¬ Very low standards (e.g: accelerated procedures, safe third countries, restrictions to access legal assistance, etc) ¬ Member States enjoy high levels of discretion ¬ ‘Protection lottery’: 2007 recognition rate for Iraqis, around 90% in Sweden/0% in Greece ¬ Reception conditions differ widely among the Member States ¬ Different rights for the beneficiaries of refugee/subsidiary protection statuses ¬ Dublin: more pressure in Member States with external borders, detention, separation of families, obstacles to access asylum procedures, system costly and inefficient
28© Vluchtelingenwerk Vlaanderen 2007 ¬ Solidarity within EU? ¬Financial solidarity ¬Physical solidarity ¬ Dublin ¬ Re-allocation ¬Practical cooperation
29© Vluchtelingenwerk Vlaanderen 2007 The access challenge ¬ Greece ¬Control of land border with Turkey ¬Frontex / Rabit operation ¬ Libya ¬Both EU and Italy collaborated with Libya in order to prevent access the EU territority
30© Vluchtelingenwerk Vlaanderen 2007
31© Vluchtelingenwerk Vlaanderen 2007 Key unanswered questions ¬ What are states’ protection obligations when intercepting boats in the High Seas or waters of a third country? ¬ To what extent can one invoke a states’ responsibilities when it is acting extraterritorially? ¬ How do Frontex operations impact access to protection for asylum seekers? ¬ What is the role of ILOs and ALOs posted abroad? ¬ How could asylum seekers be better identified at the borders? ¬ How could legal access to Europe be facilitated for refugees?
32© Vluchtelingenwerk Vlaanderen 2007 Resettlement ¬ In 2009 Belgium resettled 47 refugees ¬ Single Iraqi women in Syria and Jordan ¬ Palestinian families from refugee camps in Iraq and Syria ¬ Selected as refugees by UNHCR ¬ Receive refugee status in Belgium
Auteur: VWV33© Vluchtelingenwerk Vlaanderen 2007 Gaucheretstraat Brussels Tel.: 0032 (0) Fax: 0032 (0) Kathelijne Houben, Policy Officer
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