Over 16,000 asylum applicants still without a response

Over 16,000 asylum applicants still without a response
Credit: Belga.

The Commissioner General for Refugees and Stateless Persons (CGRA/CGVS) has received up to 17,000 applications from asylum seekers that have yet to be processed since 2019.

Since November, the Fedasil reception centres in Belgium have been overcrowded, with long lines of asylum seekers gathering in front of these facilities on Monday.

An anonymous director of one of these centres told Le Soir that the CGRA/CRVS was to blame for this over-saturation.

He stated that up to 10% of the people in his centre still had not received a response to their first asylum application, some of which had been submitted as early as 2019. This is despite European regulations requiring these files to be processed within six months.

This has made it slow for people to depart the reception centres, leading to a backlog and blocking up space for new arrivals. As a result, Fedasil has opted to prioritise families, isolated women, and males in vulnerable situations, which has left over 100 men on the streets.

An enormous backlog

According to the report, there are a total of 16,751 applications that are yet to be processed.

To grasp the scale of the problem, Dirk Van den Bulck, Director of the CGRA/CGVS, indicated that 5,000 files is a "normal" workload – there are currently 11,751 cases more.

Of these files, only 3,339 were submitted this year, with 8,202 having been submitted in 2021.

CGRA/CGVS response

Van den Bulck told Le Soir that the slow processing time is the result of a reduction in staff a couple of years ago. In April 2016, the Commissioner had to respond to 18,375 applications – their highest ever number – following the previous year's migration crisis.

After clearing this backlog in 2018, CGRA/CGVS employees were cut. But the pandemic and wars in Afghanistan and Ukraine led to a significant increase in the number of applicants whose files have not yet been processed.

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"A major rift had emerged by the time we had hired and trained people," Van den Bulck stated.

But he stated that the agency now has the necessary number of employees and should make progress on clearing the backlog of cases.

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