Asylum procedure

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Start of the asylum procedure
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Applying for asylum

There are three ways to apply for asylum in Belgium: 

  • After your arrival in Belgium, in the ‘Klein Kasteeltje / Petit Château’ registration centre at the Immigration Office (IO). Here you can read how to do this.
  • At the border with the border authorities, for example at the airport.
  • With the director of the prison or a staff member of the closed centre, if you are staying there.

You cannot apply for asylum from abroad.

You must apply for asylum in person. You cannot do this on behalf of someone else. Your children who are under 18 years old and arrive with you in Belgium, will be included in your procedure as a parent.

The IO (DVZ/OE) will register your application for asylum in the ‘Klein Kasteeltje / Petit Château’ and the following will happen: 

  • A security search.
  • Establishing your identity. Be sure to present all your identity documents.
  • Checking whether you need an interpreter and for which language. The IO (DVZ/OE) decides whether your asylum procedure will be in Dutch or French.
  • Taking your fingerprints and picture to check whether you have already been registered in another European country (see Dublin check).
  • Medical examination.
  • Fedasil checks whether you have a right to stay in a reception centre. Read more on the Fedasil website.

From the start of the asylum procedure, you can ask for a lawyer to assist you. This legal assistance is free of charge if you do not have enough financial means. Here you can read how to ask for the assistance of a lawyer.

Dublin check

On the basis of an interview, your fingerprints and/or any visa or residence permit you may have received for another European member state, the IO (DVZ/OE) will check whether Belgium is responsible for processing your asylum application (Dublin check):

  • If another European country is responsible for your application, the IO (DVZ/OE) will ask that country to process your application. If this country accepts to handle your application, you will have to go back to this country. If you do not agree with this decision, you can lodge an appeal at the Council for Alien Law Litigation (RvV/CCE). When doing so, ask your lawyer for help. Be sure to lodge the appeal within the legal time limit.
  • If Belgium is responsible for processing your application, the IO (DVZ/OE) will invite you to a first interview. In that case, the Dublin procedure is closed and you will follow the Belgian asylum procedure.

If you already have a protection status in another European country, Belgium assumes you are safe in that country. In that case, Belgium will only examine why you cannot return to that other European country.

The first interview

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The IO (DVZ/OE)  invites you to an interview at the following address: Boulevard Pacheco 44, 1000 Brussels.

Purpose of the first interview

During this interview, the IO (DVZ/OE) will ask you questions about your identity, your family situation, your former places of residence, your journey to Belgium and the reasons for your asylum application. Be sure to present all your original identity documents and any other documents regarding the reasons why you have fled your country. During this interview, mention all the reasons leading to your flight.
This first interview will serve as a basis for your interview at the CGRS, during which your reasons for applying for asylum will be discussed in detail.

Special needs

At the IO (DVZ/OE)  you will fill in a questionnaire about special procedural needs. This concerns the reasons for which you may have difficulties to follow the asylum procedure. If necessary, the CGRS will take appropriate support measures.

For example, you may have physical problems, as a result of which it is hard for you to climb stairs. In that case, the interview will take place on the ground floor. If you have psychological problems, several interviews may be planned or additional breaks may be included. If, because of problems you had in your country, you feel more comfortable to be interviewed by a man or a woman, the CGRS will see to it that a male or female interpreter and protection officer will interview you.

Preparation for the second interview
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What does the CGRS do?

After the first interview at the IO (DVZ/OE), your file will be sent to the Office of the Commissioner General for Refugees and Stateless persons (CGRS). The CGRS will then assess your application for asylum. This means that the CGRS will check whether asylum should be granted to you because you fear:

  • persecution because of your nationality, ethnic origin, religion, political opinion or because you are a member of a particular social group;
  • war or violence;
  • torture or degrading or inhuman treatment.

The CGRS is an independent authority. This means that the CGRS is impartial and nobody can say to the CGRS which decisions it has to take.

Waiting time for the second interview

The CGRS will invite you at least once for an interview. You may have to wait a long time for your invitation to this interview. The date of your asylum application does not determine the order in which the CGRS invites applicants for their interview. It is therefore possible that applicants who filed their application after you will be interviewed before you.

The waiting time depends on several factors. The CGRS can only start the assessment when the IO (DVZ/OE) has sent your file. The CGRS tries to plan the interview within four months after receiving the file. For applicants coming from a safe country of origin or residing in a closed centre, this delay will be shorter. Due to an increase in the number of asylum applications, there may be a backlog. As a result, not all applications can be handled within a short period of time and the waiting time may extend to more than one year or in some cases even two years. However, the CGRS still tries to do everything possible to invite all applicants as soon as possible for an interview.

 In any case, spend your waiting time for the second interview in a useful way:

  • Inform the CGRS if you have any special needs
    If you have any special needs and you did not mention this during your first interview at the IO (DVZ/OE), be sure to inform the CGRS, who will then be able to take appropriate measures. Ask your lawyer or social worker for help.
     
  • Contact your lawyer
    Assistance from a lawyer is free of charge if you do not have enough financial means. Prepare the interview together with your lawyer. He/she can help you to structure your story and to order the facts chronologically.
     
  • Gather documents and evidence
    If you did not present all your documents during the first interview, be sure to use the waiting time between the first and second interview to gather all documents that prove who you are and where you come from. Important documents are for example your passport or your identity card. If you do not have any identity documents, you can also present other documents that can prove your identity, such as your parents’ identity documents or a military booklet. Gather all documents that show why you cannot return to your country, for example legal documents.
    Do everything possible to have the original documents sent to you and be sure not to keep back any documents.
    Present documents that deal with your personal situation. You do not have to present documents that contain only general information about your country. You can be assured that the CGRS is aware of the situation in your country. If you cannot present any documents, you will have to explain the reason for this during your interview at the CGRS.
    Do not have any documents forged or do not have any false documents made, because this may lead to a rejection of your application.
     
  • Prepare yourself mentally
    During the second interview, you will be asked questions about the problems you had in your country, which may be difficult emotionally.
     
  • Tell your own story
    Do not tell someone else’s story or a story suggested to you, but tell what happened to you personally. It is important that you give a clear view into your personal situation. Do not look for a fake story which you think will enhance your chances of obtaining asylum. You risk getting a negative decision even as the problems you experienced personally may lead to asylum.
The second interview
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Route description

The second interview takes place at the CGRS: Rue Ernest Blerot 39, 1070 Brussels
The CGRS can be reached easily by public transport.

Invitation for the second interview

The CGRS will send the letter of invitation by mail to the address of your choice or by carrier to the reception centre where you reside. If you have a lawyer, he/she will receive a copy of the letter.

It is important that you inform the CGRS of your correct address, so as to be sure to receive the letter of invitation. If you have moved, please send a registered letter containing your new address to the CGRS. You can download the appropriate form here.

If serious reasons prevent you from coming to the interview, for example because you are ill, you must inform the CGRS and justify your absence with a certificate within the time limit mentioned in your letter of invitation. When doing so, ask your lawyer or social worker for help.

Purpose of the second interview

The second interview is the most important moment in the asylum procedure. During this interview, the CGRS protection officer will ask you questions about:

  • who you are;
  • where you come from;
  • what your life was like in your country;
  • how you travelled to Belgium;
  • your documents;
  • why you left your country;
  • why you cannot return to your country.

Tell your own experiences and why you cannot or do not want to return to your country. Tell your own story. Do not tell another story or something that is suggested to you, but tell what happened to you personally. During the interview, the credibility of your story will be assessed. Therefore it is important that you offer a clear and complete view into your real situation.

The protection officer will ask you many questions. If you do not know the answer to a question, just say so. This is better than to invent an answer.

Whatever you tell during the interview will be treated confidentially. This means that the CGRS will not share this information with anybody. The authorities of your country of origin or the persons who persecute you will never know that you applied for asylum or what you told the CGRS. Your declarations will also not be shared with your family members if you do not want this.

Documents and evidence

It is important that you present original documents that prove who you are and the problems you faced in your country. Important documents are for example your passport or identity card. If you do not have any identity documents, you can also submit other documents that can prove your identity, such as school certificates, identity documents of your parents or a military booklet. Gather also documents that can prove why you cannot or do not want to return to your country, for example legal documents.

Do everything possible to have original documents sent to you and do not keep back any documents.

Submit documents that deal with your personal situation. You do not need to gather any documents that contain general information about your country. You can be sure that the CGRS is aware of the situation in your country.

If you do not have any documents, explain the reasons for this during the interview. Do not have any documents forged or do not have any false documents made because this may have a negative influence on the assessment of your asylum application.

The CGRS will safely keep the documents you present.  You can ask them back at any time during the procedure.

Persons present during the second interview

You, the applicant:
Every applicant is interviewed individually. If you arrived in Belgium with your partner or your parents, they may be invited to their interview on the same day as you, but you will be interviewed separately. You can say what you have to say in total freedom. What you say will not be shared with your relatives if you do not want this.

The protection officer:
The protection officer will ask you questions in order to assess your application. He/she is specialized in your region of origin and regularly receives training to improve their expertise and knowledge. The protection officer is bound by professional secrecy.

The interpreter:
If you said during your first interview at the IO (DVZ/OE) that you need an interpreter, an interpreter will attend the interview at the CGRS and provide a literal translation of everything that is being said during the interview. The interpreter is neutral and impartial, and he/she is also bound by professional secrecy. This means that the interpreter cannot tell anyone what you told during the interview. The interpreter is not involved in taking a decision, and is not allowed to inquire about it.
If you have problems understanding the interpreter, you have to say so during the interview.

The lawyer:
You can also request to be assisted by a lawyer, which is free of charge if you do not have enough financial means. The lawyer will inform you of your rights and duties and will check that everything happens correctly.
Your lawyer’s presence at the interview is not required. The interview will take place even if your lawyer cannot be present. However, your lawyer can request a copy of the notes of the interview, so that he knows what happened.

The trusted person:
You can also ask to be assisted by a trusted person. A trusted person is someone who professionally specializes in assisting persons or in refugee law, for example a social worker, a psychologist or a therapist.
Relatives or friends cannot assist as trusted persons.
The trusted person must be authorized by the CGRS to attend the interview.

Duration of the interview

The interview takes on average three to four hours but can be longer or shorter. A break is planned after about one and a half hours. You can always ask for a break yourself if you need one.

Copy of the interview

During the interview, the protection officer will write everything down in a report. You can ask to have a copy of this report, during the interview or within two days after the interview. Ask your lawyer to help you with this. You will receive the copy in the language of your asylum procedure (Dutch or French). You can check the notes with your lawyer, and/or an interpreter and suggest corrections or additions.

Decision
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Waiting time

After the interview, you will return to the reception centre or your place of residence. Meanwhile, the protection officer will analyse all the information necessary for a decision. The waiting time for a decision varies. The CGRS aims at taking a decision within two months after the interview, unless further analysis is necessary. An applicant from your country who arrived later than you in Belgium may nevertheless get a decision earlier. This is not a reason to worry. Every application for asylum is different and is examined individually. The CGRS is aware that a long waiting time is a cause of uncertainty and stress. It does everything to take a decision as quickly as possible.

How does the CGRS take a decision?

After the second interview, the CGRS will first examine the credibility of your declarations and documents:

  • Is the information you gave during the interview correct?
  • Are the documents genuine?
  • Are your declarations credible, whether about your origin or about the problems you faced?

If your declarations and documents are credible, the CGRS will check whether your case comes under the Geneva Refugee Convention, in other words you have to fear persecution because of your nationality, ethnic origin, religion, political opinion or because you are a member of a particular social group. Moreover, you cannot or do not want to appeal to the protection of the country of which you possess the nationality or the country where you used to live.
If you cannot be granted refugee status, the CGRS will examine if you may receive subsidiary protection. This will be the case when you run a risk of serious harm in your country because of death penalty or execution, torture, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment or indiscriminate violence because of war.

The CGRS assesses every application individually objectively and impartially, according to Belgian, European and international legal norms. When assessing your application, the CGRS takes into account your profile (age, background, level of education, gender…). If the CGRS considers that you need protection, you will obtain a protection status.

Decision

Two types of decision give right to asylum and a stay in Belgium:

  • refugee status;
  • subsidiary protection status.

The CGRS takes a decision of refusal if you cannot be granted refugee status nor subsidiary protection status.

Appeal

If you do not agree with the decision of the CGRS, you can bring an appeal to the Council for Alien Law Litigation (RvV/CCE). The period of appeal depends on the type of decision. Ask your lawyer to help you with this. Do this quickly because sometimes the period of appeal can be very short.

If you have new evidence, you can file a subsequent application under certain conditions. Read more about this under ‘Reapplying for asylum’