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The Belgian Approach: the Family Units Geert Verbauwhede, acting Advisor Conference on Alternatives to Detention Interior 16.11.2011.

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Presentation on theme: "The Belgian Approach: the Family Units Geert Verbauwhede, acting Advisor Conference on Alternatives to Detention Interior 16.11.2011."— Presentation transcript:

1 The Belgian Approach: the Family Units Geert Verbauwhede, acting Advisor Conference on Alternatives to Detention Interior

2 History before and since alternative Until 1998: no detention of families with children (exception: border cases) Until : detention of one of the parents; rest of the family free  problem: rest of the family did not present themselves at date of removal Until : detention of families as a whole From : no detention of families with children (exception: border cases) Since : also border cases no longer detained

3 Why this change? Pressure of NGO’s and parliament to seek for alternatives : report made by external study agency with presentation of different alternatives 2007: report presented to parliament March 2008: test with invitations to the Immigration Office – unsuccessful (only 10 % of invitees came)

4 Creation of Family Identification and Return Unit (FITT) 1 October 2008 Return officers (coaches) of Immigration Office Assist families in preparation of return, legal questions, logistical matters, … Cooperation with IOM Sponsored by EU Return Fund Cooperation with local authorities and NGO’s Also looking for staying alternatives if asked by families (depending on information given by families) Now: 4 coaches + 1 coordinator + 2 technical support + 1 logistical supervisor

5 Family Units Alternative = individual houses or apartments for families (former police force houses) 15 family units in use – 7 in preparation Completely equipped en furnished One family per unit because of privacy – in bigger houses possibility to put 2 families Long term Plans : looking for bigger site and / or extra locations  then of course necessity for extra coaches

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9 Family units in detention Centre Recent ECHR decision: no detention of families unless specific infrastructure Decision of State Secretary for Migration and Asylum Policy: creation of specific family units in the detention centre at the airport  separated from rest of detention centre; 5 prefab vacation houses with necessary infrastructure Who can be detained: specific border cases (INAD), families who did not respect rules in family units Timing: Spring 2012

10 Legislative framework Royal Decree of 14 May 2009: rules for the family units, rights and obligations for families Planned: Royal Decree stipulating which categories of families with children can be detained in future

11 Evaluation Relatively positive evaluation by NGO’s and by administration; international interest in system (Council of Europe, EU, other EU member states) BUT: concerns about large number of absconding (25 % - percentage of absconders within Dublin scheme is even 53 %) Exhaustive internal evaluation on different criteria, which can be used for future continuous evaluation Family units are no longer Project but are embedded return procedure Still necessity to develop cooperation with other State Agencies (e.g. reception centres)

12 Assessment on arrival of families at the Border Since opening of family units for border cases: clear increase of families arriving at border + new nationalities (Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, Sri Lanka) and new departure airports (Moscow)  from 23 families in 2009 over 66 in 2010 to already 103 until Families stayed already a long time in third (transit) countries before arriving in Belgium Many recognized refugees + subsidiary protection at the border Looking for balance – avoid that family units become pull factor

13 Statistics (up to ) 249 families with 452 minor children (80 irregular migrant families, 51 Dublin families, 118 border families) 240 families have left the family units -102 families departed to country of origin or third country (23 IOM, 25 Dublin cases, 5 bilateral cases, 14 “forced” removals, 34 refoulments at border, 1 voluntary departure without assistance) -60 families “escaped” (absconded) -78 families were freed (9 families temporarily or definitively regularized; 29 families recognised as refugee; 8 families subsidiary protection, 5 families pending asylum procedure; …) -1 family separated (child not related with “parent”) Average staying period: 23,7 days Top 5 nationalities: Iraq, Afghanistan, Brazil, Russian Federation, Armenia

14 Questions?


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