Assistance and information
Voluntary return is accessible to applicants for international protection as well as undocumented migrants. The role of the return counsellors is to provide them with information and assistance.
The return path for asylum seekers
Throughout their path, the applicants for international protection are informed about the voluntary return at different key moments:
- When applying for international protection at the Immigration Office
- During the intake by the social worker
- After a negative decision from the General Commissioner for Refugees and Stateless Persons
- After lodging an appeal with the Council for Alien Law Litigation
- After a definitive negative decision from the Council for Alien Law Litigation
The residents who received a definitive negative decision are allocated an open return place. These are located in the reception centres managed by Fedasil.
The open return place path enables migrants to understand why they have received a negative decision, what are their options and the consequences. The residents receive support to think about their future and can stay during 30 days in the open reception place to make their decision.
A worker of Fedasil or an ICAM coach of the Immigration Office accompany them. If the residents decide to return to their country of origin, the return is organised from an open reception place.
The return path and the return places are explained to the applicants for international protection with an informative sheet available in 11 languages.
Assisting migrants without a residence permit
It is important that voluntary return stays as accessible as possible for all migrants outside the reception network. Fedasil has 5 return desks located in Brussels, Ghent, Antwerp, Charleroi and Liège. Partner organisations entitled to organise a voluntary return are also present in other cities.
Fedasil works together with administrations and organisations on the local level (CONEX network) which includes the cities of Antwerp, Ghent, Charleroi, Liège and the commune of Anderlecht. Their role: make sure the services of their administrations and the different organisations active in the region are well informed on all the possible options, but also on all the paths and programmes, including the voluntary return programme. The goal is that they can in turn inform migrants and refer them correctly.
In addition, the ICAM coaches of the Immigration Office follow migrants who received an order to leave the territory and who are staying both inside and outside the reception network. The ICAM coaches support isolated persons and families in irregular stay and try to find a long-term solution with them. If a stay is not possible, the coaches provide information about voluntary return and refer the migrant to a return counsellor of Fedasil.
Fedasil’s return counsellors
Fedasil’s return counsellors work in reception centres or return desks and provide support to the Local Reception Initiatives. Return counsellors are in charge of informing the migrants, registering and assessing their application, organising the actual return and assessing the reintegration opportunities in their home country. Therefore, their role is to remove all obstacles to the voluntary return. Nevertheless, the migrants themselves are responsible for obtaining the travel documents.
Return counsellors share their expertise with the different return partners and therefore organise training courses for the staff of the Local Reception Initiatives, the Public Social Welfare Centres…. These trainings aim to facilitate discussions about the voluntary return and to find the best way to bring up the subject with migrants.