Asylum and subsidiary protection : these are the two principal forms of international protection available to foreigners arriving in Belgium. The procedure for stateless foreigners is at the moment less self-evident; however, gaining citizenship is an essential first step towards being able to exercise many other rights.
Who can request asylum?
Belgium has committed to offering protection to foreign citizens in particularly serious circumstances. Therefore, those in fear of persecution and who can prove that their life or personage is at risk can ask Belgium for protection. In Belgium, the Immigration Office registers asylum requests and the General Commission for Refugees and Stateless Persons (GCRSP) makes the final decision. The latter can be appealed against in front of the Immigration Litigation Council (ILC).
Asylum is granted to people in fear of persecution due to their race, their religion, their nationality, membership of a certain social group, or their political opinion and who cannot rely on their own country for protection. The criteria for granting asylum are detailed in the Geneva Convention. If the request for asylum meets the Geneva Convention’s requirements, the GCRSP (or the ILC) will grant the applicant refugee status. This is the process of becoming a recognized refugee.
However, if the request does not meet the requirements of the Geneva Convention, the GCRSP will consider whether the person in question is at risk of serious harm (death penalty, inhuman or degrading treatment, or a serious threat owing to indiscriminate violence in situations of internal or international armed conflict) if they were to return to their country. In this circumstance, a subsidiary protection is granted.
During the procedure, asylum seekers have the right to seek financial aid that will enable them to lead a properly supported, dignified life. In Belgium, the reception centre is managed by Fedasil, the federal agency for the reception of asylum seekers, in collaboration with other organizations (namely public social actions centres and NGOs).
Stateless persons are a particularly vulnerable group because they do not have citizenship. There are approximately 10 million stateless persons in the world. In 1961 the United Nations introduced a convention that aimed to reduce and prevent statelessness. Belgium signed it in 2014.
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