The Return of Rejected Asylum Seekers in Belgium and in the EU: Challenges and Good Practices (EMN)
This EMN Study examines the policies and practices in place in Belgium and in the EU to encourage the return of rejected asylum seekers, identifying the challenges and good practices associated with return.
The number of rejected asylum applications in the EU between 2011 and 2015 increased broadly in line with the increase in applications for asylum. This has put significant additional pressure on Member States to increase the effectiveness of return in general, and of rejected asylum seekers in particular. This EMN study examines measures taken in the EU and in Belgium to enhance the return of rejected asylum seekers at different stages of the asylum procedure.
The study focuses – inter alia - on the national policies in place to encourage the return of rejected asylum seekers; on the challenges associated with the return of rejected asylum seekers as well as the measures taken to counter these; and on national approaches to rejected asylum seekers who cannot immediately or not be returned.
The Belgian study examines the policies and measures in place addressing rejected asylum seekers. Among other conclusions, the study shows that:
- Different authorities are involved in the asylum and return procedures. They communicate directly or indirectly to ensure that return decisions are implemented at the right moment following a rejection of the asylum application.
- Different approaches are adopted to ensure or encourage (voluntary) return. These include the preparation of asylum seekers for return early on and throughout the different stages of the asylum procedure through the "return path".
- Rejected asylum seekers' rights and access to certain services is limited. They cannot stay in the reception facilities, but they can go to the 'open return places' managed by Fedasil, where they receive the same material aid as during the asylum procedure and receive intensive return counseling (usually for a maximum of 20 days). Afterwards, no accommodation is provided. They also no longer have access to the labour market, are not entitled to social welfare and only have access to urgent medical assistance.
- Rejected asylum seekers can lodge an appeal against the decision of the CGRS, or lodge a subsequent asylum application. They can also lodge an appeal against a return decision.
- Various challenges prevent or hinder the return of third country nationals in Belgium (e.g. resistance of TCN, lack of cooperation from country of return, etc). These challenges usually affect the return of all TCNs, and are not specific to the return of rejected asylum seekers. Several measures are implemented to manage these challenges (such as AVR(R) programmes, bilateral cooperation, etc.), some of which target (rejected) asylum seekers specifically.
- No specific status is granted to rejected asylum seekers who cannot (immediately) return or be returned to their country of origin, regardless of whether this return is impossible due to no fault of their own or whether they are considered to have hampered their own return. However, in certain cases, the Immigration Office can extend the order to leave the territory.
Some of the main findings of the study:
- Member States employ a range of measures to encourage return (e.g. AVR(R) packages) and disincentives to stay (e.g. withdrawal of certain rights and benefits).
- There are many challenges to return, some of them affecting rejected asylum seekers more than other TCNs (e.g. volatile security situation in the country of origin). Aspects of the due process of the asylum procedures may also delay returns (e.g. late appeals).
- Member States have put into place different measures to counter these challenges, including cooperation agreements with third countries’ authorities or the provision of medical support during the return process.
- Without evaluative evidence, it is difficult to draw conclusions as to which measures are most effective, but the practice of drastically reducing rights following a rejection may increase the likelihood of absconding, lead to rejected asylum seekers falling out of contact with authorities, and increase the likelihood of destitution.
- Variations between Member States as to when they issue/enforce a return decision may lead to uneven treatment of asylum seekers across the EU.
- When return is not immediately possible, there are also significant differences in national practices: the majority of Member States acknowledge when return is not immeditaely possible, but less than half grant a status to the TCN.
For further information, please read the full Synthesis Report (available above).