Asylum applications soared in 2009

There has been a strong increase in the number of people that are applying for political asylum in Belgium. In 2009 the number of applications rose by 40%.

Also in neighbouring countries there was an increase, but not as marked as in Belgium.

The number of applicants who were recognised as political refugees remained unchanged.

In recent years there was a strong increase in the number of applications for political asylum because many applicants filed a second or even a third dossier as new elements were added to their story.

In 2009 there were a lot of new applications from people who applied for the first time.

Dirk Van den Bulck, the Commissioner General for Refugees and Displaced People, told the VRT: "In many of the countries where these people come from the situation has deteriorated. The increase in the number of applications has been mirrored across the EU."

But it is Belgium together with Sweden that experienced the strongest surge in the number of new applications.

It remains unclear why Belgium is so popular.

In 2009 17,186 people filed an application. This is up 5,000 on the year.

Only 1,887 people were recognised as political refugees. A further 416 received temporary leave to stay in the country legally.