Category Archives: Belgium

Belgium Plans to Reintroduce Border Controls to Block Entry by Tunisians from Italy

Belgium announced earlier today at the conclusion of the JHA Council meeting that it plans to reintroduce border controls, joining France and Germany, in an effort to block the entry of Tunisian migrants granted temporary residency by Italy.  The announcement was made by Melchior Wathelet, Secretary of State for Asylum and Migration. Wathelet also suggested that Austria and the Netherlands , as countries of “final destination,” were supportive of the move to reintroduce border controls within the Schengen Area.

Click here (FR), here (NL), and here (FR) for articles.

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Filed under Belgium, European Union, France, Germany, Italy, Libya, Mediterranean, News

Annual number of asylum applications in select countries, 2004-2009

From Migration Policy Institute’s MPI Data Hub: annual number of asylum applications in select countries.  I copied the data for years 2004-2009 below.  Click here for the data for the years 1980-2009, footnotes, and source information.

Countries of destination 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009
Australia 3,201 3,204 3,515 3,980 4,771 6,170
Austria 24,634 22,461 13,349 11,921 12,841 15,830
Belgium 15,357 15,957 11,587 11,114 12,252 17,190
Canada 25,750 20,786 22,868 27,865 34,800 33,250
Denmark 3,235 2,260 1,918 1,852 2,360 3,750
Finland 3,861 3,574 2,324 1,505 4,016 5,910
France 58,545 49,733 30,748 29,387 35,404 41,980
Germany 35,613 28,914 21,029 19,164 22,085 27,650
Greece 4,469 9,050 12,267 25,113 19,884 15,930
Ireland 4,765 4,325 4,315 3,985 3,866 2,690
Italy 9,722 9,548 10,348 14,057 30,324 17,600
Netherlands 9,782 12,347 14,465 7,102 13,399 14,910
Norway 7,945 5,402 5,320 6,528 14,431 17,230
Spain 5,535 5,254 5,297 7,662 4,517 3,000
Sweden 23,161 17,530 24,322 36,373 24,353 24,190
United Kingdom 40,620 30,815 28,335 27,880 31,315 29,840
United States 44,972 39,240 41,101 40,449 39,362 38,968

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Filed under Australia, Belgium, Data / Stats, Denmark, European Union, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, UK, United States

ASIL Insight article about M.S.S. v. Belgium & Greece

ASIL has just published an Insight article about M.S.S. v. Belgium & Greece written by Tom Syring, Co-chair of the ASIL International Refugee Law Interest Group, who currently serves at the Norwegian Immigration Appeals Board.

Excerpt from the conclusion:  “Apart from criticizing Greece for the current conditions of detention and subsistence awaiting asylum seekers, and Belgium for ‘intentional blindness’ for failing to properly scrutinize the adequacy of protection against refoulement in Greece, despite the fact that circumstances had called for application of the sovereignty clause, the Grand Chamber’s judgment exposes flaws in the current European asylum regime.

The judgment acknowledges … challenges [posed by CEAS and the Dublin regulation], yet underlines that neither uneven burden-distribution (Greece) nor a state’s minimalist reading of the Dublin Regulation (Belgium) absolves Member States of their responsibilities vis-à-vis the Convention or other applicable international treaties, including the 1951 Refugee Convention. As long as the EU and CEAS are comprised of individual Member States, as opposed to a ‘United States of Europe,’ individual states will be held responsible for independently assessing each case for the risk of direct or indirect refoulement.   While the Grand Chamber judgment uncovered a number of deficiencies in the current European asylum system, solutions to CEAS may have to be found outside the ‘Dublin world.’”

Click here for full article.

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Filed under Analysis, Belgium, European Union, General, Greece, Judicial

Goodwin-Gill Lecture: “Right to Seek Asylum: Interception at Sea and the Principle of Non-Refoulement” (16 Feb., Brussels)

Professor Guy Goodwin-Gill will give the Chaire W.J. Ganshof Van Der Meersch lecture in Brussels, 16 February 2011, 17:00, at the Académie Royale des Sciences, des Lettres et des Beaux-Arts de Belgique, salle Albert II.

The lecture will address “The Right to Seek Asylum: Interception at Sea and the Principle of Non-Refoulement ” – The right to seek asylum is continuously challenged by the fight against irregular migration. In particular, the European Union and its Member States take measures to intercept boats on the sea in order to prevent irregular migration: patrols at sea, treaties with countries of origin or transit to readmit the concerned persons, agreements regarding the place of disembarkation,… The problem comes from the fact that asylum seekers are traveling together with undocumented migrants, what is called “mixed flows”. Even if the applicability of the principle of non-refoulement is often reaffirmed, the way to implement it represents a real difficulty in such a context.”

RSVP by 11 Feb.:

Votre réponse est attendue au plus tard le 11 février 2011

Tél: +32(0)2 650 27 16 (9h00 à 12h00)

Fax : +32(0)2 650 39 57

Courriel :

Click here for more information.

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Filed under Belgium, Colloques / Conferences, European Union, News

PACE President Çavusoglu: ECtHR Decision “explodes myth that Europe is able to protect the rights of refugees”

PACE President Mevlüt Çavusoglu issued a statement regarding today’s Grand Chamber decision in the CASE OF M.S.S. v. BELGIUM AND GREECE (Application no. 30696/09) (also FR):

“‘The European Court of Human Rights today delivered a milestone judgment damning how Europe is protecting its refugees, asylum seekers and irregular migrants,’ today said Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly (PACE) President Mevlüt Çavusoglu.

‘While the M.S.S. v. Belgium and Greece judgment is only against two member states, the implications of the judgment will be rippling through the capitals of Europe,’ he added. ‘The myth that European Union member states are safe places to return asylum seekers has been exploded by the European Court of Human Rights.’

The President stated that the Court had found massive deficiencies in detention conditions in Greece and in the procedures and remedies designed to safeguard the rights of asylum seekers, refugees and irregular migrants in Europe. He commented that Greece was not alone in failing on detention safeguards and that the Assembly had recently addressed recommendations to all member states on steps to improve detention facilities in Europe.

‘What is also clear from this judgment is that the so-called EU ‘Dublin system’ for determining the state responsible for deciding an asylum decision has to be changed as a matter of urgency. It is based on the false premise that EU member states are all safe and able to cope. They are not, and the ‘Dublin system’ creates enormous burdens on front-line states, such as Greece,’ the President declared.

He called on the EU to work with the Council of Europe, UNHCR and others, to solve the problem of returns under the “Dublin system” and reiterated a concern repeatedly highlighted by the Assembly that Europe needs to make its asylum systems fairer (see PACE Resolution 1695 (2009)) and needs clear rules on detention of irregular migrants and asylum seekers (see PACE Resolution 1707 (2010)).

‘Europe has European Prison Rules applying to criminals, but we still do not have similar rules for irregular migrants and asylum seekers who have committed no crime,’ he concluded.”


Filed under Belgium, Council of Europe, European Court of Human Rights, European Union, Greece, News, Statements

Decision from Grand Chamber of ECtHR: Returning Asylum Seekers to Greece Violates European Conv. on Human Rights

The Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights issued a decision today in the CASE OF M.S.S. v. BELGIUM AND GREECE (Application no. 30696/09) (also FR) and concluded that Belgium should not have returned an Afghan asylum seeker to Greece under the Dublin II regulation which mandates that asylum claims are to be considered in the state where the asylum seeker first entered Europe.

This is the first decision from the ECtHR addressing the application of the Dublin II regulation.  According to European Voice, the “Court [currently] has around 960 cases pending that relate to the Dublin regulation, against the Netherlands, Finland, Belgium, the United Kingdom and France, most of them concerning expulsions to Greece.”

I have not had a chance to read the decision closely yet, but here is some basic information about today’s decision (more to follow in a subsequent post):

Excerpts from the Court’s Press Release (click here for FR):

“In today’s Grand Chamber judgment in the case M.S.S. v. Belgium and Greece (application no. 30696/09), which is final, the European Court of Human Rights held, by a majority, that there had been:

A violation of Article 3 (prohibition of inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment) of the European Convention on Human Rights by Greece both because of the applicant’s detention conditions and because of his living conditions in Greece;

A violation of Article 13 (right to an effective remedy) taken together with Article 3 by Greece because of the deficiencies in the asylum procedure followed in the applicant’s case;

A violation of Article 3 by Belgium both because of having exposed the applicant to risks linked to the deficiencies in the asylum procedure in Greece and because of having exposed him to detention and living conditions in Greece that were in breach of Article 3;

A violation of Article 13 taken together with Article 3 by Belgium because of the lack of an effective remedy against the applicant’s expulsion order.”

ECRE released a statement describing the decision as a “major blow to the Dublin system.”  Excerpts from the ECRE statement:

“Bjarte Vandvik, ECRE Secretary General, stated: ‘This judgment is a major blow to the Dublin system. The assumption that all EU Member States respect fundamental rights and that it is therefore safe to automatically transfer asylum seekers between EU countries no longer stands. Europe must seriously rethink the Dublin system and replace it with a regime that ensures the rights of asylum seekers are respected’.

This judgment will affect many asylum seekers in Europe. In 2010 alone, EU countries requested Greece to examine the applications of almost 7,000 asylum seekers who had entered the EU through Greece. Their situation will now need to be re-examined in light of this ruling.

Bjarte Vandvik [also] stated: ‘European countries must comply with the Court’s ruling, stop sending asylum seekers back to Greece, and examine asylum applications themselves until a fair asylum system is in place in Greece’.

The Dublin system fails refugees and Member States and needs to be changed.  This ruling reflects the serious shortcomings in the asylum procedure in Greece and in Belgium and it also highlights the flaws in the Dublin system itself. ECRE has long stressed that Dublin shifts responsibility for asylum seekers to states at Europe’s frontiers. Also, it allows refugees to be sent back to European countries where their fundamental rights are not respected.

As a first step in the right direction, ECRE supports the Commission proposal to review the Dublin Regulation, as it introduces significant humanitarian reforms and important procedural safeguards. For example, the proposal makes it easier for asylum seekers to join family members living in Europe, protects the rights of children who have arrived alone and ensures the continuity of care for vulnerable persons.

However, these are only temporary measures that do not solve the sometimes devastating impact of the Dublin system on asylum seeker’s human rights. Ultimately the Dublin Regulation should be abolished and replaced by a more humane and equitable system that considers the connections between individual asylum seekers and particular Member States.”

Click here for full ECRE Statement on the decision.

Click here (ECHR Blog) and here (Free Movement Blog) for some initial additional thoughts about the decision.

Click here, here, and here for articles.


Filed under Belgium, Commissioner for Human Rights, European Court of Human Rights, European Union, Frontex, Greece, Judicial, News

European Patrol Network Meeting, 23-24 Sept.

The quarterly meeting of the European Patrol Network (EPN) will be held 23 and 24 September in Bruges.  EPN was established by Frontex and unites the members of the agency’s operational branch of the ‘Joint Maritime Operations’.

According to the Belgian Police EU Presidency Newsletter, 7th Edition, the purpose of the meeting is to “allow the participating countries to ensure better coordination of the operations….  A number of technical points will come up for discussion, but for instance also the progress of the [Frontex] 2010 Joint Operations, the creation of a national coordination centre, the issue of the interpreters, as well as the Eurosur project. At present the efforts of the EPN are mostly focused on the Mediterranean, due to the immigration pressure from this region.”  (The Newsletter says the meeting is scheduled for October, but the Belgian Integrated Police – Belgian Presidency of the EU website indicates the meeting is 23-24 September.)

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Filed under Belgium, European Union, Frontex, Mediterranean, News

ECRE’s Recommendations to the Belgian EU Presidency

ECRE issued last week a letter and memorandum setting forth its recommendations to the Belgian EU Presidency in regard to the Common European Asylum System (CEAS), the European Asylum Support Office (EASO), and other related legislative files that will be considered during the Belgian Presidency.

Among the several important recommendations made by ECRE are the following:

“Access to protection – … [C]ooperation between the EASO, FRA and FRONTEX provide opportunities to develop mechanisms at EU level to guarantee that border control mechanisms are protection-sensitive in practice. The recently adopted guidelines for joint sea operations coordinated by FRONTEX restate the international human rights framework governing interception at sea and reaffirm the obligation of Member States to ensure that “no person shall be disembarked in, or otherwise handed over to the authorities of a country in contravention of the principle of non-refoulement, or from which there is a risk of expulsion or return to another country in contravention of that principle.”  They also explicitly require that “the person intercepted or rescued shall be informed in an appropriate way so that they can express any reasons for believing that disembarkation in the proposed place would be in breach of the principle of non-refoulement”. Whereas the guidelines merely restate these principles, they need to be implemented in practice. Given that the actual disembarkation of persons intercepted or rescued in the context of FRONTEX operations is dealt with in the non-binding part of the guidelines, it remains to be seen how effective this tool will be in order to ensure effective access to protection.

Recently the Commission proposed the third substantive revision of FRONTEX’ mandate. The Commission proposal unambiguously asserts that relevant EU standards, as well as international human rights and refugee law, are applicable to all border operations carried out by Member States under the auspices of Frontex and to all other activities entrusted to the Agency, which ECRE welcomes.

At the same time, while the intention of the Commission is to further clarify the role and responsibilities of FRONTEX vis-à-vis the Member States, the fundamental ambiguities about accountability for possible human rights violations during border control operations coordinated by FRONTEX are not resolved. ECRE believes that the respective roles and responsibilities of Member States’ guest officers, host Member State border officers, observers from third countries and FRONTEX personnel in those operations must be clearly established to avoid “accountability shifting” between the various actors involved. The enhanced role of FRONTEX in coordinating joint operations necessarily adds to FRONTEX’ responsibility and therefore further amendments to the Commission proposal are required to reinforce the Agency’s accountability.

Moreover, the proposed expansion of the role of FRONTEX in cooperating with third countries in border management, including through the posting of Immigration Liaison Officers, raises a number of concerns from a fundamental rights perspective, in particular regarding the ability of individuals to flee and find protection from persecution. Consequently, ECRE believes that additional safeguards are needed to ensure that FRONTEX activities will indeed not “prevent access to protection systems by persons in need of international protection” as required by the Stockholm Programme.

ECRE calls upon the Council and the European Parliament in particular to:

  • Support the proposed amendments to the FRONTEX Regulation reasserting the obligations under EU law and fundamental rights which are incumbent upon Member States when taking part in the Agency’s operations.
  • Establish mechanisms to reinforce FRONTEX accountability in view of the increasing responsibilities placed on the Agency.
  • Introduce the necessary safeguards to ensure that FRONTEX enhanced capacity to cooperate with third countries does not prevent access to protection systems by persons in need of international protection.”

Click here for the ECRE Memorandum.

Click here for the ECRE Letter to the Belgian EU Presidency.

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Filed under Belgium, Communiqués, European Union, Frontex, Statements

Conférence-Débat: Frontex : guerre aux migrants, 24 mars, Bruxelles

La Ligue des droits de l’Homme en collaboration avec Progress Lawyers Network présentent, conférence-débat Frontex : guerre aux migrants.

“Bien qu’opérationnelle depuis 2005, Frontex, dont les compétences et capacités sont sans cesse renforcées, reste pourtant méconnue du public. L’objectif de la conférence-débat tend dès lors à mettre en lumière son existence, ses compétences et les conséquences de ses opérations en termes de violation des droits fondamentaux des migrants.  Pour aller au-delà du simple constat, différentes pistes seront abordées, tant d’un point de vue juridique que politique, afin de mettre sur pied un plan d’action contre ce dispositif des plus inquiétants.

Une conférence-débat avec Selma Benkhelifa, avocate chez Progress Lawyers Network, Hélène Flautre, parlementaire européenne et membre de la Commission LIBE, Violeta Moreno Lax, chercheuse et doctorante à l’UCL et Claire Rodier, GISTI (France) et vice-présidente de Migreurop.”

Cliquez ici pour infos.

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Filed under Belgium, Colloques / Conferences, Frontex

NGO Asylum Good Practice Recommendations to Spain, Belgium, and Hungary

CEAR (Spanish Refugee Council), the Flemish Refugee Action (Vluchtelingenwerk Vlaanderen), CIRE (Coordination et Initiatives pour Réfugiés et Etrangers),and the Hungarian Helsinki Committee (Magyar Helsinki Bizottság) have made a series of good practice recommendations to Spain, Belgium and Hungary.  These three countries are “the new Trio of States that will hold the Presidency of the European Union from January 2010 until June 2011, a crucial moment for the development of the EU policy and legislation in the field of asylum … The Trio will therefore play a key role in [the] implementation [of the Stockholm Programme] … The aim of [the recommendations is ] to complement ECRE’s positions and identify, from a more national perspective, those issues where the often diverse experiences of Spain, Belgium and Hungary can be employed to effectively address some of the main shortcomings of asy­lum systems in Europe.”

“As a general recommendation we urge the Trio of States to join their efforts in ensuring that the second phase of the Common European Asylum System will translate the best practices and highest protec­tion standards of the Member States’ national laws into EU legislation. The harmonisation on minimum standards, too often resulted in the lowest common denominators, should not be repeated.”

“[I]t must also be noted that in recent years a worrisome tendency has developed towards the exter­nalisation of responsibility for asylum claims outside the EU to neighbouring third countries. In this respect we recommend the Trio of States to support cooperation with third countries aimed at reinforcing their protection system. At the same time we urge the Trio of States to take a strong and clear position to make sure such cooperation does not become a way for the EU to escape its responsibility to protect under international and EU law.”

Click here for full document.

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Filed under Belgium, European Union, Hungary, Spain, Statements