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Refugee policies - Belgium

After the end of the Second World War, the decision on the eligibility of asylum seekers in #Belgium was taken by the International Refugee Organization (IRO). After IRO ceased its activity in 1950, the Belgian government famously delegated the competence to determine eligibility to refugee status to the UNHCR. In 1981, the UNHCR formally requested the Belgian government to eventually start to exercise the competence of refugee status recognition. As a result, the Law of 14th July 1987 brought this competence back to domestic institutions, as article 57(2) established the General Office of the Commissioner for refugees and stateless (Commissariat général aux Réfugiés et aux Apatrides, CGRA).

Belgium is a party to the Geneva Convention Relating to the Status of Refugee since 1953 and to its additional Protocol since 1969, as well as to the European Convention on Human Rights.

Since Belgium is a party to the main international legal frameworks on refugee status, all non-nationals who enters the country have the right to apply for international protection. As a matter of fact, the 1951 Geneva Convention had a great impact on Belgian refugee law. According to article 48 of the law of 15th December 1980 on entry, stay, settlement and removal of foreign nationals from the national territory, “a foreigner who meet the conditions required for this purpose by international conventions binding upon Belgium may be recognized as refugee”. Such wording choice reflects the country’s codified willingness to comply with international standard of asylum application processing and refugee protection.

Importantly, the law of 15th December 1980 was amended by the law of 1st June 2016 (not by chance, during the peak of asylum seekers’ arrivals to #Europe from the #Mediterranean Sea), which established that asylum seekers granted refugee status by the CGRA will no longer automatically be granted a residence permit of unlimited duration. They will instead receive a temporary residence permit of the duration of 5 years, after which they may be entitled to receive an unlimited residence permit, provided that their refugee status had not been withdrawn.

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