Reception conditions for asylum-seekers continued to be inadequate. The policy of forcibly returning rejected asylum-seekers to Iraq was maintained. Allegations of excessive use of force by the police persisted. There were concerns that a draft law banning the full-face veil in public would violate freedoms of expression and religion.
Reception conditions for asylum-seekers were inadequate. According to local NGOs, between October 2009 and December 2010 the federal government agency responsible for the reception of asylum-seekers (Fedasil) failed to provide a total of 7,723 asylum-seekers with accommodation. At the end of the year, 1,203 asylum-seekers were still temporarily housed in hotels, without any medical, social or legal assistance. The government took some measures in the course of the year, including the creation of a number of emergency shelters, but they were insufficient and did not adequately address the deficiencies.
On 19 January, the European Court for Human Rights ruled in Muskhadzhiyeva and others v. Belgium that, by detaining four young children and their mother in a secure detention centre for over a month before sending them back to Poland in January 2007, Belgium had violated the prohibition of torture and other ill-treatment and the right to liberty in respect of the four children. Since October 2009, families with children had been accommodated in so-called “living units” and were no longer held in detention centres.
Belgium maintained its policy on forcible returns to Iraq, despite guidelines from UNHCR, the UN refugee agency, which called on states not to forcibly remove anyone to the provinces of Ninewa (Mosul), Kirkuk, Diyala, Salah al-Din and Baghdad, as well as to other particularly dangerous areas such as parts of Al Anbar province.
Police were alleged to have used excessive force during several demonstrations.
There were allegations from protesters of excessive use of force by the police following two demonstrations in Brussels, in September and October. In October, the Permanent Oversight Committee on the Police Services opened investigations into the allegations.
On 8 December the Brussels Civil Court delivered its first findings in a case brought by nine survivors of the Rwandan genocide against the Belgian state and three Belgian soldiers. The Court found that the Belgian state was responsible for ordering the prompt return of Belgian peacekeepers from Kigali in 1994, leaving behind an estimated 2,000 people in a school building that was under Belgian control when the peacekeepers withdrew. Many of them were killed shortly after the departure of the peacekeepers. The Court also ruled that by obeying those orders the three soldiers had engaged their own responsibility.Top of page
On 29 April, the lower house of the Belgian parliament voted in favour of legislation banning the partial or complete covering of the face in public with clothing in a way that makes the wearer no longer identifiable. There were concerns that a general prohibition on wearing full-face veils would violate the rights of those women who choose to wear a full-face veil as an expression of their religious, cultural, political or personal identity or beliefs. At the end of the year the draft law was pending consideration by the Senate.Top of page