The authorities continued to leave many asylum-seekers destitute and homeless. The European Court of Human Rights ruled that Belgium had violated the prohibition of removing anyone to a country where they would be exposed to a real risk of torture (non-refoulement), and the right to an effective remedy. The government attempted to rely on diplomatic assurances to remove foreign nationals to countries where they might face torture and other ill-treatment. A law prohibiting and penalizing concealing the face entered into force.
The “reception crisis” that started in 2008 worsened by the end of 2011. According to NGOs, over 12,000 asylum-seekers, including children, were refused access to the official reception system between October 2009 and the end of 2011. They were left without shelter or medical, social or legal assistance. Over the year, despite some positive government measures, the number of people left out in the streets grew to over 4,000. Legislation adopted in November limited the right to reception for some groups of asylum-seekers and introduced a list of “safe countries of origin”. Asylum-seekers from these “safe countries” would receive a decision within 15 days, and they could be forcibly removed from Belgium before an appeal had been heard.
On at least two occasions the authorities attempted to rely on diplomatic assurances to remove foreign nationals to countries where they could be at risk of torture and other ill-treatment.
Discrimination on the grounds of religion continued. Individuals wearing symbols or dress perceived to be Muslim were particularly affected by discrimination when trying to access employment.
Following the UN Universal Periodic Review in May, the authorities agreed to establish a National Human Rights Institution and to ratify both the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention against Torture and the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.
In June, Belgium ratified the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance.Top of page