The problem is three-fold: while the number of applications has gone up – but not to an extent like in 2015-2016 – the number of places in reception centres had already been reduced, and at the same time it takes a lot longer before asylum seekers are getting an answer, due a lack of staff at Fedasil.
It is now taking 15 months on average before asylum seekers know whether or not they can stay in Belgium. All this time, they occupy a place in a reception centre. The Immigration Office (DVZ) has to cope with fewer employees: "At the start of this year, we had 32 people to take a first interview and prepare the file to be sent to a next level. Now, we have 52 people, but we still need 20 more to be able to cope completely", explains spokesman Geert De Vulder.
Fanny François of Fedasil says the target is to take a decision within a span of 6 to 9 months. She also criticizes decisions taken in recent years, claiming the number of reception places has been cut too drastically after the historic 2015-2016 peak.