Last update : May 2024

Far from positively changing the situation, in recent years, the policy towards migrants in Belgium has deteriorated.

Created by potrace 1.10, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2011

In general:

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 should 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). The associations can recommend a lawyer you can trust and who is motivated to work on foreign nationals’ rights. Don’t think that only high-paying lawyers can improve your chances of obtaining a residence permit….

As Belgium is divided into a French-speaking and a Dutch-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.
Over the last three years, the dispatching office has changed address three times …
Since September 2022, applications have been registered at Boulevard Pachéco 44, 1000 Brussels.

It is also possible to apply for a residence permit for reasons other than asylum, such as family reunification, medical reasons, work or study, etc., but all of these are subject to extremely strict conditions and controls.
People who do not obtain a residence permit do not benefit from legal aid, housing or financial support. As an ‘undocumented’ person in Belgium, you have only a minimum right to basic healthcare, via a scheme called ‘urgent medical aid’, for which you should apply to the CPAS in the municipality where you are staying.
In April 2023, researchers estimated that there were several hundred thousand people without a valid/stable residence permit in Belgium, including 112,000 so-called “undocumented migrants”, most of whom live in Brussels (https://emnbelgium.be/fr/nouvelles/il-y-112000-personnes-sans-titre-de-sejour-en-belgique-selon-une-nouvelle-etude-de-la).

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, they automatically agree to not apply 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.

However, many squats exist in Brussels. Some have been set up by various collectives by undocumented migrants and are self-managed. The city of Brussels often carries out evictions, forcing people to move several times.

In early 2022, the Belgian government caused a “reception crisis” by refusing to allocate sufficient places in reception centres. Yet the “reception law” stipulates that anyone who applies for asylum is immediately entitled to accommodation in a reception centre.

As a result, several hundred people, including families and unaccompanied minors, are forced to sleep rough, waiting for lawyers to lodge appeals with the Labour Court to order Fedasil to take them in. In December 2022, the Labour Court had already handed down more than 5,000 orders, condemning Fedasil in 90% of cases. (In a “normal” year, the number of such orders is 40.)
It should be pointed out that although Fedasil has been ordered to provide a place, people have to wait, on average, three months to be assigned a place.

If there have been fewer people sleeping rough since 2023, it’s not because the Belgian government has provided sufficient, even humane, solutions…

Detention Centers:

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.

The criminalisation of travellers who take a stand and declare their opposition to this violence is also increasingly frequent and threatening. The case of the “6 heroes” trial bears witness to this. For more information, visit https://jenelabouclepas.wordpress.com/


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 …

“Breaking” the Dublin law to obtain the possibility of applying for a residence permit in Belgium is becoming increasingly complicated, with waiting times and reference addresses to prove during the waiting period.

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.

Solidarity :

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.