Belgium condemned over reception crisis by Brussels court

The Belgian State and Fedasil, the institution responsible for the reception of asylum seekers, have been condemned by the French-speaking Court of First Instance in Brussels for their handling of the reception crisis.

The problem is more pronounced in Belgium than it was in 2015, when Europe was hit by what has been called the biggest refugee crisis since the Second World War.

Belgium has been facing a major reception crisis for some time, prompting French- and Dutch-speaking civil society organisations to take the Belgian State and Fedasil to court. They based their case on the usual principle of fault-based liability - where the one who causes damage to the other is obliged to compensate - and on Belgium's obligation to protect asylum seekers.

In its defence, the state invoked the principle of force majeure, preventing it from fulfilling its obligation. These included the large influx of people, difficulties opening new reception centres and the war in Ukraine. While acknowledging the efforts made by the state and the difficulties encountered, the court ruled that the influx was not an "unforeseeable element" and that the argument of force majeure was not valid.

"Failing to enforce previous convictions undermines the foundations of the rule of law"

The Court found that the Reception Act had been violated and that the measures taken by Belgium to resolve the crisis were insufficient to meet its international obligations. The judgment also explicitly states that "failing to enforce previous convictions undermines the foundations of the rule of law".

This refers to the more than 1,100 previous convictions against the state for the government's failure to provide legally guaranteed reception for asylum seekers. According to the Court, Belgium must take full responsibility for its actions and cannot shift part of the responsibility to the judiciary.

Strong ruling

Flanders' Refugee Council argues that this is the "strongest ruling" so far. "The court confirms what we have been arguing for a long time," says director Tine Claus. "There is no force majeure, the government is simply not doing enough to solve the reception crisis."

"Every asylum seeker who registers is entitled to a reception place"

"This ruling confirms what the state secretary has been saying for a long time, namely that every asylum seeker who registers is entitled to a reception place," said Sieghild Lacoere, spokesperson for state secretary for Asylum and Migration Nicole De Moor (CD&V).

"The secretary of state has never stopped trying to find places for asylum seekers and is still working on this with Fedasil," she added. "She is also pushing for longer-term structural solutions. Therefore, the breakthrough with all member states on a common asylum and migration policy in June was crucial. This now needs to be negotiated further with the European Parliament."



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