Belgium may again send asylum seekers back to Greece, something it had been unable to do for seven years, De Standaard and Het Nieuwsblad reported on Monday. A decision to that effect was approved by the Foreigners’ Claims Council last week.
The European Court of Human Rights had condemned Belgium in 2011 for violating the European Convention on Human Rights. At the time, Greece had a refugee reception system that did not guarantee humane living conditions for asylum seekers who were sent back there.
That was the first time the court condemned an expulsion done under the Dublin Regulation II, which requires asylum-seekers’ cases to be processed in a member State through which the applicant had entered the European Union (EU).
In late 2016, the European Commission again proposed that asylum-seekers be sent back to Greece if they travelled from that country to another EU member State after the 15th of March 2017. The Commission felt conditions in Greece had improved.
To send someone back to his or her first country of entry into the EU, an EU member State must obtain individual guarantees that the person will be well treated. An exception is made for vulnerable persons and minors.
Belgium’s Secretary of State for Migration, Theo Francken, wishes to send asylum seekers away as early as possible. Last week, a first case was submitted to the Foreigners’ Claims Court, to which appeals can be made against decisions of the General Commissioner for Refugees and Stateless persons, of the Office of the Commissioner for Refugees or of the Immigration Office.
A Palestinian asylum seeker who arrived in Belgium from Greece and filed an asylum application in Belgium in October, had appealed against a decision to send him back to Greece. His appeal was rejected on Friday.