Far from positively changing the situation, in recent years, the policy towards migrants in Belgium has deteriorated.
Like everywhere in Europe, it is becoming more and more complicated and time-consuming to get asylum. Especially when you haven’t any documents and/or you cannot prove the reasons why you left your country, or why you cannot stay in the first European country (Dublin law).
It is also important to note that national immigration law and conditions changes very quickly. You must try to get legal support as soon as possible in order to be well accompanied in your asylum application. Even if you already had experience in other European countries, search for legal information about your individual case and get some legal support (see list of associations).
As Belgium is divided into a French-speaking and a Flemish-speaking part, people must pay attention to which language (French or Flemish) their asylum request is recorded, in order to look for French-speaking or Flemish-speaking legal support (lawyer, association etc.).
Always check if the address of an institution is up to date.
For the registration, also called “dispatching”, note that you have to line up (early in the morning) at the front side of the Petit Chateau (not anymore at the North station): Rue de Passchendaele 2, 1000 Bruxelles.
Also the Office des Etrangers and the CGRA recently changed address.
Office des Etrangers: Boulevard Pachéco 44, 1000 Bruxelles
CGRA : Place Victor Horta 40, 1060 Saint-Gilles
There are also possibilities to apply for a residence permit on other grounds than asylum, for instance family (re)unification, medical grounds, work or study, or other, but all are under extremely strict conditions and controls. People who do not get a residence permit do not get legal help, nor shelter or financial support. As an undocumented person in Belgium you have only a minimum right to basic health care. In august 2019, it is estimated that around 150 000 people are living without a residence permit in Belgium (https://www.caritasinternational.be/fr/asile-et-migration/sans-papiers-en-belgique-causes-et-consequences-long-read/).
All national administrations for asylum are located in Brussels, however centers for migrants are usually in the countryside. Even if Belgium is a small country, people are often isolated somewhere far away from cities, infrastructure and social life. But if someone refuses the housing in a center, he/she automatically agrees to not ask for social and financial aid.
Only in special circumstances is it permitted for someone to refuse housing in a center, and receive social and financial aid, but often only after months-long discussions between different administrations and a lawyer in support of the migrant. Consequently, without any private help for housing / accommodation, living anywhere except an official center during the asylum procedure is extremely difficult.
Keep in mind also that since autumn 2017, individuals charged with squatting can be given a prison sentence.
Detention and deportations are becoming more and more normalized. Repression and criminalization are irreparably increasing due to the rise of right-wing, far-right parties, and the fear of other parties that they are not being “firm enough” with their migration policy. As a result, the number of detention centers called “closed centers” is increasing, while others are under construction or retrofitting: next to the detention center called “127bis”, a special “family” wing was opened in 2019. In this “family detention center” families with children are detained. Its proximity to Brussels national airport allows deportations to be carried out quickly, and without attracting attention. And despite some expressions of doubt about the detention of children, it is still in use. Recently, a detention center for women in Holsbeek has been opened too: in an old hotel where there will be capacity to detain 58 people, thirty of those spaces are already accounted for. In all Belgian closed centers there is a total impunity for multiple transgressions of regulations, conventions or other laws: detainees suffer from hunger, isolation, administration of sedatives, a lack of care, and a racist and violent atmosphere.
The evictions are particularly violent, whether during transportation to the airport, at the airport where the police officers indulge torture, threats and intimidation and without control, or on the plane itself where techniques of shackles, silence and suffocation are used in order to try to silence the person, no matter what it costs. The violence administered is beyond any comprehension.
Also the criminalization of travelers who position themselves and declare themselves opposed to this violence is also more and more frequent and threatening. The case of the “6 heroes” trial https://www.toutautrechose.be/actualites/les-6-heros attests to this, but even today many travelers are being expelled from the plane after protesting against a deportation.
Another form of criminalization has been established and is gaining intensity, focusing on migrants passing through Belgium in aim to reach other countries, like the United Kingdom. Called “transmigrants” by politicians, these people are prosecuted, arrested, and often sentenced to prison terms of up to 6 years for “human trafficking”, and for assisting others to find routes out of the country, mainly in trucks. Other “transmigrants” are arrested during systematic and daily roundups in parking lots and in stations and are detained in closed centers. The Dublin regulation is systematically applied, and they are deported following Dublin law, to Germany, others to Switzerland, France, Italy, Netherlands …
Police raids and controls:
March 2017: Belgian government was blamed for its cooperation with the Sudanese government and dictatorship.
Members of the Sundanese secret service cooperated in police raids in Brussels in order to recognize (via facial profiling) Sudanese migrants and sign their deportation to Sudan.
October 2017: a whistler-blower laid open police intern information that the government set a certain quota of arrests to be achieved, especially of migrants from certain countries of origin, during police raids in parks and stations.
May 2018: a two-year-old girl was killed by the Belgian police. During a chase of a migrant pickup truck on the highway, a police officer fired toward the pickup truck and killed little girl Mawda : http://www.justicepourmawda.be/ The investigation is still ongoing, the police officer has not been charged.
Even today, spots where migrants try to pass, but also spots in the cities where they try to eat or to sleep, are frequently the focus of police raids;
Belgian citizens who give accommodation to migrants are charged with being part of a criminal organization and accused of people smuggling. https://solidarityisnotacrime.org/des-solidaires-en-proces/
Public transport in Brussels:
Tickets controllers are accompanied in Brussels by police officers and police dogs, in order to search for people without tickets and ID documents. If you have a ticket, normally nobody will ask you for your ID or residence permit. Thus, it is highly recommended to not take the tram/metro/bus without a ticket if you haven’t any ID or residence permit, in order to not risk any arrest by the police and detention.
It is important to mention, however, in this turmoil, the growth of solidarity among Belgian citizens who have become “accommodation providers” to migrants: they welcome migrants daily at their homes in order to prevent them from sleeping on the street, A citizen platform “http://www.bxlrefugees.be/” was organized in 2015 and still exists, today as a recognized ngo. Other groups showing support to migrants and people without legal papers exist in and around Brussels. After strong criticism in 2015, the city of Brussels was forced to organize a reception center at night, which hadn’t existed before. However, at the federal, national level, nothing is being done to receive people in a humane, dignified way.