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    Asylum seekers increasingly choose to stay in Belgium

    © Belga

    Belgium’s immigration service registered 27,742 personal applications for asylum in 2019, according to the annual report of the Office of the Commissioner-General for Refugees and Stateless Persons, CGRA.

    This was an 18% increase compared to 2018, when 23,343 applications were received by the service, known officially as the Office des Etrangers (OE), and 40.9% more than the 19,688 foreigners who applied for international protection in Belgium in 2017.

    The CGRA report shows a steady increase in applications since 2016. Nevertheless, the figures are still much lower than in 2015, when a record 44,760 asylum applications were submitted.

    The main countries of origin in 2019, as in 2018, were Syria, Palestine and Afghanistan: Afghans are fast becoming the largest contingent of asylum seekers, accounting for close to 70% of the increase in applications between 2018 and 2019.

    El Salvador now ranks fifth among the countries of origin, notes the CGRA, adding that more and more citizens of Latin American countries have been arriving in Europe.

    In 2019,  18,554 decisions were handed down, granting refugee status or subsidiary protection to 6,719 persons.

    The number of favourable responses may not have not declined, but it has failed to keep pace with the increase in applications: the approval rate went from 57.7% in 2016 to 36.9% in 2019.

    Oscar Schneider
    The Brussels Times