Dutch judge denies Dublin transfer to Belgium due to asylum reception crisis

A Dutch judge has blocked the Dublin transfer of a Chinese asylum seeker to Belgium, arguing that his reception in the country cannot be guaranteed. Belgium has been facing an asylum reception crisis for more than a year.

According to a court in The Hague, the Dutch authorities should better justify that so-called Dublin returnees, named after the Dublin Regulation, can expect to receive shelter in Belgium. For more than a year, Belgium has been grappling with a shortage of reception places for asylum seekers.

The EU's Dublin Regulation determines which country is responsible for processing asylum applications. Usually this is the first (Schengen) country the asylum seeker enters. Belgium has long pushed for all EU member states to apply the Dublin rules, but now the country's own reception crisis is preventing the regulation from being applied as it should.

The case concerns a Chinese asylum seeker whose asylum application could not be processed in the Netherlands because Belgium is responsible for processing it under Dublin rules. The Belgian authorities do not dispute this claim. The asylum seeker appealed against this decision, arguing that the "principle of inter-state trust" could not be relied on with regard to Belgium, partly because the country faces a shortage of reception places for asylum seekers. 

The Dutch court agreed with the asylum seeker and ruled that the Dutch authorities "must provide further justification that the principle of inter-state trust can still be invoked in relation to Belgium". "It can do so, for example, by making it plausible that Dublin returnees are treated differently from other asylum seekers in Belgium and that they, and therefore the applicant, will be given reception," the ruling reads. 

According to Thomas Willkens of the Belgian NGO Vluchtelingenwerk Vlaanderen, the ruling shows that Belgium is "currently undermining the very functioning of the Dublin system - to which it attaches so much importance".

According to Nicole de Moor, Belgium's Secretary of State for Asylum and Migration, the ruling demonstrates the need "to apply the Dublin rules throughout Europe pending a new European approach to the fair distribution of asylum seekers". "14,537 asylum seekers who applied in our country last year were already registered elsewhere in Europe and are actually the responsibility of other countries. If these countries had taken up their responsibilities, we would not have a reception crisis today and we would be able to provide perfect reception for these asylum seekers. I remain committed to necessary reforms at the European level," said de Moor.



Refugees in the tents in front of the 'Klein Kasteeltje - Petit Chateau' (Little Castle) Fedasil registration center for asylum seekers in Brussels, Belgium © BELGA PHOTO HATIM KAGHAT

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