Data management in the Belgian asylum procedure
The management of data has become increasingly important over the past years, not in the least for the public institutions that are responsible for the applications for international protection. Today, the increased influx of applicants for international protection and the Covid-19 pandemic have increased the need for a more efficient system to collect, store, treat and share data. EMN analysed the state of play and the future developments in the field of data management in the asylum procedure between 2014 and 2020, thereby also taking into account the legal framework that surrounds the field of data management. Additionally, EMN Belgium published a standalone study that highlights the management of data in the Belgian asylum procedure.
The Belgian standalone study analyses how the public asylum instances handle the data of applicants of international protection from the moment an application for international protection is made, until the decision on the application at first instance. More specifically, the study analyses how the Belgian Immigration Office (IO) and the Commissioner General for Refugees and Stateless persons (CGRS) manage these data. The study explains how the data is collected, who can access them, how they are protected and how the quality of the data is assured.
Both instances have their own database (Evibel is the database of the Immigration Office and Actio the one from CGRS). In addition, these instances use data from other national databases (such as the Waiting Register and Printrak). Finally, at the EU-level, several information systems collect data in a decentralised way: asylum-related data are collected on the national level and centralised in the EU data system, which are then accessible by the different Member States (and in certain cases by EEA-countries, such as Iceland and Norway).
The study clearly shows that there is a will to improve data management on the national level, but that:
- Human, technical and financial impediments hinder the road to digitalization;
- There is room for improvement in the overall institutional coordination with regard to data management and the coordination of data management between the different asylum instances;
- Institutional challenges impede data coordination (independency CGRS);
- The complexity of the legal framework complicates the work of the institutions.
Nonetheless, the studies shows that the institutions aim for change and invest in better data management. In that context, the CGRS is testing a semi-automatic allocation system that aims to improve the processing of international protection applications. Furthermore, both the IO and CGRS aim at upgrading their databases (Evibel and Actio) and are looking at ways to improve the coordination between their databases. Finally, the new State Secretary for Asylum and Migration has planned an audit for the asylum institutions, with which he aims to optimize and improve their procedures. Other future evolutions are further detailed in the study.