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1© Vluchtelingenwerk Vlaanderen 2007 Auteur: VWV1© Vluchtelingenwerk Vlaanderen 2008 Belgium: shelter for refugees? Interdisciplinary course North-South.

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Presentation on theme: "1© Vluchtelingenwerk Vlaanderen 2007 Auteur: VWV1© Vluchtelingenwerk Vlaanderen 2008 Belgium: shelter for refugees? Interdisciplinary course North-South."— Presentation transcript:

1 1© Vluchtelingenwerk Vlaanderen 2007 Auteur: VWV1© Vluchtelingenwerk Vlaanderen 2008 Belgium: shelter for refugees? Interdisciplinary course North-South UHasselt, 9/03/2011

2 2© Vluchtelingenwerk Vlaanderen 2007 Protection

3 3© Vluchtelingenwerk Vlaanderen Protection 2. Reception 3. Return and detention 4. Europe

4 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 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 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 7© Vluchtelingenwerk Vlaanderen 2007 No protection without good procedures

8 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 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 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 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 12© Vluchtelingenwerk Vlaanderen 2007 ¬ Eurodac (finger prints) ¬ Problematic: Greece ¬ Important role European Court Human Rights

13 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 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 15© Vluchtelingenwerk Vlaanderen 2007 Reception crisis. Asylum crisis?

16 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 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 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 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 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 21© Vluchtelingenwerk Vlaanderen 2007 Return and detention

22 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 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 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 25© Vluchtelingenwerk Vlaanderen 2007 And meanwhile in Europe?

26 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 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 28© Vluchtelingenwerk Vlaanderen 2007 ¬ Solidarity within EU? ¬Financial solidarity ¬Physical solidarity ¬ Dublin ¬ Re-allocation ¬Practical cooperation

29 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 30© Vluchtelingenwerk Vlaanderen 2007

31 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 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

33 Auteur: VWV33© Vluchtelingenwerk Vlaanderen 2007 Gaucheretstraat Brussels Tel.: 0032 (0) Fax: 0032 (0) Kathelijne Houben, Policy Officer


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