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Applications for asylum in Belgium increased by over 50% in 2021

Illustration shows the conditions of waiting outside for asylum seekers in front of the 'Klein Kasteeltje - Petit Chateau' (Little Castle) Fedasil registration centre for asylum seekers in Brussels, Wednesday 01 December 2021. (BELGA PHOTO HATIM KAGHAT)
05:43 11/01/2022

Applications for international protection submitted to the Immigration Office in Belgium increased by 53.6% in 2021, according to figures released by the General Commission for Refugees and Stateless Persons (CGRS), the body responsible for granting this protection.

A total of 25,971 applications were submitted, compared to 16,910 in 2020. After examining their case, 10,093 people were granted protection status. The CGRS notes that the number of requests received was almost as high as in 2019, when 27,742 requesters were registered.

In 2021, the monthly average was 2,164 applications, compared to 1,409 in 2020. The peak of requests was reached in September (3,326) due to the Red Kite evacuation operation in Afghanistan. Afghans also represent the leading nationality in terms of applications submitted, with 6,506 recorded. Syria comes in second place in 2021 with 2,874 applications, followed by Palestine (1,662), Eritrea (1,558), and Somalia (1,116).

Nearly 72.4% of applications were made by men and 27.6% by women. "For some countries such as Afghanistan, the proportion of male applicants is even higher (89.7%)," the CGRS notes. "For other countries, the proportion is more balanced (Syria 64.2%; Somalia 59.7%)."

The Immigration Office also registered 3,219 applications for protection from persons declaring themselves as unaccompanied foreign minors (MENA). After examination by the guardianship service, 1,976 of them were considered to be effectively minors (in 2020, there were 1,764 "declared minors" and 1,335 "effective minors"). As many as 95% of MENA are boys and 76.3% are Afghans. "Eurostat figures show that Belgium is, along with Austria, the country that recorded the highest number of MENA originating from Afghanistan in 2021," says the CGRS.

The number of decisions taken by the CGRS in 2021 has increased (+29%) to 18,513, concerning 23,248 people. The CGRS considered that applicants actually needed protection in 43.5% of final decisions. This represents a total of 7,528 decisions granting protection status, for a total of 10,093 people.

"Although the CGRS was able to make more decisions in 2021, the work reserve (the number of files for which the CGRS still has to make a decision) has increased to 15,685 files (18,835 people), due to the sharp increase in the influx," the organisation adds. To overcome this situation, a reinforcement of the workforce is planned in 2022.

"I consider that the backlog in treatment is extremely problematic, first and foremost for people who have to wait too long for their decision and remain in uncertainty until then," said Dirk Van den Bulck, the commissioner-general of the CGRS.

"With the additional reinforcement, the staffing capacity will exceed 500 full-time equivalents. With this reinforcement, the backlog can be cleared over a period of three years. This is a realistic goal, unless the number of applications were to continue to increase. In the latter case, additional measures will be necessary."

Written by Nick Amies