The right to seek international protection arises from international commitments of Belgium based on a desire to protect fundamental rights.
The asylum procedure in Belgium is strictly regulated by law. That said, the Foreigners Commission of the Belgian League of Human Rights (LDH) finds that the authorities take initiatives outside those given under the law.
The news should not distract us from respecting the rule of law and our human rights.
Thus, the League of Human Rights denounces:
- The letter from Secretary of State Theo Francken, which provides incorrect information to applicants for protection in Belgium. The information it contains (on the length of stay, duration of proceedings, etc.) fall under agreements of the government, but these agreements haven't yet become law. Francken puts the cart before the horse, and in doing so he acts with a level of authoritarianism incompatible with the laws of this country. In addition, he asserts in the letter that Belgium is attentive to vulnerable profiles. Under our international obligations and national law, vulnerable profiles must be informed of the asylum procedure in detail, but this is not so. The letter from the secretary of state is neither correct nor detailed and contradicts these obligations.
- The letter distributed to Afghans by the secretary of state, released on the evening of November 25. It is not accurate to claim that for Afghans, it is illegitimate to seek international protection in Belgium. The political situation in Afghanistan is complex and it is not accurate to claim that all Afghans would have little chance of obtaining protection. As noted by the newspaper Le Soir, Afghan refugees, since early 2015, are in fifth position in the ranking of nationalities that have most benefited in Belgium. Note that this status is very far from being able to get claims granted easily. Rather, it is usually after an obstacle course and careful analysis by the authorities at different stages of the procedure that protection is granted. The LDH Foreigners Commission considers that the initiative is moreover discriminatory in that it applies only to one nationality and this discrimination is neither proportionate nor based on proper reasons.
Finally, noting that this letter is also distributed to unaccompanied foreign minors (MENA), the Foreigners Commission is concerned about the lack of consideration the secretary of state takes in these vulnerable profiles.
'Surprised' Aliens Office
We find that people who come to register a first application for asylum are turned back at the gates of the Foreign Office, without re-convening. Even though this issue has caused a stir a few weeks ago and provoked citizens' initiatives, the authorities can’t reasonably attempt to excuse their failure to comply with our basic laws and rights by saying that they have been "surprised" by the refugee crisis. Temperatures have dropped, and considering the liabilities in this regard, we call for an immediate return to the rule of law by the Aliens Office.