Asylum seekers can apply in person once again

Despite the corona threat it’s once again possible to apply for asylum in Belgium in person by heading to the federal asylum agency centre Klein Kasteeltje in Brussels. 

Earlier Belgium was convicted of failing to apply legislation on the reception of asylum seekers.  Under this law asylum seekers must be given board and lodging from the minute they apply.  As a result of the corona crisis part of the application procedure moved online and some asylum seekers had to wait weeks in order to be allotted a place at a reception centre.

Under Belgian legislation from 2007 anyone requesting protection must immediately be offered board and lodging.  With part of the application procedure being conducted online some asylum seekers had to wait weeks before any physical registration at a reception centre.  This meant that for a time they were forced to provide food and accommodation for themselves.

In recent months several asylum seekers took the matter to court and won their case.  The Belgian state was given till 6 November to come up with a solution or would otherwise face a hefty daily financial penalty.

Secretary of state for asylum and migration Sammy Mahdi (Flemish Christian democrat) says that together with the immigration department and the federal asylum agency Fedasil the physical registration procedure at the Klein Kasteeltje centre in Brussels is being resumed.

“We organised a test run last Friday.  That went well.  Given the corona measures things are not always as simple as they used to be.  Corona measures must be complied with at all times and by everybody.  The police and community wardens will supervise this.”

Mr Mahdi hopes to avoid long queues or lines:

“Our aim is to ensure sufficient distance.  Arrivals will be allotted a time slot to ensure they don’t all have to wait together.  Capacity has been expanded to cater for everybody.”

The online procedure will now stop, but Mr Mahdi insists that in exceptional times it did show its worth: “We will now examine whether we can operate a modified online system that respects European law and allows us to organise a registration process as safely as possible.”

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