On the 29th of June 2023, the Brussels Court ruled in its judgment no. 2022/4618/A. The case concerns a collective complaint by several organisations claiming that since the end of the summer of 2021, the reception network of the Federal Agency for the Reception of Asylum Seekers (Fedasil) has been saturated preventing them from allocating reception places to applicants for international protection. Moreover, as of October 2021, the Belgian authorities were no longer able to systematically register asylum applications when applicants were present at the Migration Office. As registration is a prerequisite for reception, people had to sleep on the streets. From November 2021, the applicants attempted to secure their right to reception in court, but the situation continued to deteriorate.

The Court first noted that asylum applicants cannot always lodge their application for international protection at the Migration Office which is unacceptable because such delay has important consequences on, for instance, receiving material assistance. The Court highlighted that it was also unacceptable that persons had to sleep in front of the Office in order to apply for asylum. The Court therefore held that Belgium breached its obligation to effectively guarantee the right to apply for international protection. The Court then ruled that it was undisputed that Belgium breached its obligation to guarantee reception to applicants for international protection. However, the authorities claimed that this was justified due to force majeure, but the Court ruled that this was not the case as alleged difficulties such as fluctuating migration flows, floods, covid-19, the war in Ukraine and the workload of the Office of the Commissioner General for Refugees and Stateless Persons were not insurmountable. Additionally, the Court found that the lack of enforcement of numerous judicial decisions on reception of asylum applicants is unacceptable as it jeopardises the rule of law.

The Court consequently ruled that applicants for international protection, whose collective interest is represented by the applicants, suffer significant damage in causal connection with the above-mentioned breaches hence Article 1382 of the Civil Code is violated. The Court ordered that Belgium must immediately allow all applicants for international protection to submit and register their applications, cease the systematic violation of EU asylum law and take the necessary measures to immediately allow all applicants to receive material assistance.

Based on an unofficial translation from within the EWLU Team

We want to thank Helene Asselman, socio-legal officer working for Vluchtelingenwerk Vlaanderen, for bringing this case to our attention