Fall in arrivals in 2020

Fedasil arrival centre
Coronavirus meant that 2020 was marked by a drop in arrivals in the reception network for asylum seekers, and that the organisation of voluntary returns was disrupted.

In 2020, 13,645 asylum seekers joined the Fedasil reception network via our arrival centre in Brussels (le Petit-Château). This is a 40% decrease compared with 2019.

Due to coronavirus, Belgium definitely saw a significant drop in asylum applications, especially between March and July 2020.

Afghanistan was by far the leading country of origin of asylum seekers in 2020. At the same time, Belgium noted a significant decrease in the arrival of Latin American nationals, particularly from El Salvador.

The year 2020 was also marked by the arrival of a large number of unaccompanied minor asylum seekers, most of them Afghans. Fedasil offers specific support to these young people. As a result, our centres responsible for their first reception (OOCs) were in heavy demand throughout the year.

The health crisis also had a negative impact on the length of time it took to process asylum applications and therefore on the length of stay in our network. Moreover, people with protection status have difficulty in visiting accommodation and therefore in leaving reception facilities quickly.

28,180 places available

In 2020, a slight increase in the number of reception places enabled Fedasil to control the occupancy rate in the centres, which was essential due to the health situation. The network had 28,180 places at the end of 2020.

Fedasil has also worked hard to create enough buffer places to be better prepared for any new reception crisis and thus guarantee the stability of the reception network in the long term. The aim is to make the reception network more flexible and therefore more resistant to variations in migratory flows.

1,847 voluntary returns

Fedasil is also responsible for assisting migrants who wish to return to their country of origin.

The organisation of voluntary returns in 2020 was severely disrupted by the coronavirus crisis, but Fedasil and its partners have found solutions for people wishing to return. In 2020, they were 1,847 to return voluntarily to their country of origin. This is a decrease of 24% compared to the previous year, mainly due to the coronavirus crisis.

Among the destinations, there is an increase in returns to El Salvador, Colombia and Belarus. Returns to Romania, Ukraine and Iraq are in sharp decline.

With the help of IOM offices and Caritas International partners active in the field abroad, solutions are found to support returnees in their countries of origin. A few stories were collected in 2020, published on the Fedasil website dedicated to voluntary return: www.voluntaryreturn.be/stories

For further information

  • The key figures for 2020 can be found here (French/Dutch)
  • The voluntary return statistics can be found here (French)
  • The CGRS has also published its Survey of 2020 on asylum (French)