Sharp drop in asylum applications in 2016 –number of decisions taken by the CGRS at an all-time high

“In 2016 the number of asylum claims in Belgium has dropped by more than half compared to the previous year”, says Dirk Van den Bulck, Commissioner General for Refugees and Stateless Persons. “In nearly 30 years of existence, the CGRS has never taken as many decisions as in 2016. I’m proud of my staff’s work and I thank them for their effort.” Likewise, the number of positive decisions has never been so high. “More than 15.000 persons received a protection status in Belgium in 2016, and about half of them were Syrian nationals”, explains the Commissioner General. The number of rejections has also increased. “The CGRS has always maintained a consistent approach: persons in need receive protection in our country; if no protection is needed, the asylum claim is rejected.” If the number of asylum claims and the number of staff remain stable, the CGRS intends to eliminate its backlog before the end of 2017. The CGRS is aware that the uncertainty about their future due to long waiting times has a big negative impact on asylum applicants.

1. 18,710 asylum applications in 2016, a drop of more than 50 % compared to 2015

In 2016, 18,710 asylum applicants were registered at the Belgian Immigration Office, compared to 44,760 in 2015. This is a drop by more than half compared to 2015. We also see a similar decrease in most other EU member states. This is mainly due to the closing of the route from Turkey to Greece.

The decrease in Belgium is mainly due to a sharp drop in the number of Afghan, Syrian and Iraqi asylum applicants. In 2015 they represented 63 % of all asylum claims in Belgium, compared to 35 % in 2016, when asylum applicants came from a more diverse range of countries.

Afghanistan, Syria and Iraq are still the top 3 countries of origin for asylum claims in Belgium, followed by Guinea and Somalia.

2. The CGRS took more than 22,000 decisions in 2016, 30 % more than in 2015. This is an all-time record for the CGRS.

In 2016, the CGRS took a total of 22,207 decisions concerning 27,678 persons. Compared to the number of decisions taken in 2015 (16,929), this is an increase of more than 30 %. Never before has the CGRS taken as many decisions in one year. This could be achieved thanks to additional staff, efficiency measures and the commitment of its personnel.

In 2016, the CGRS decided in 57.7% of its final decisions that protection was needed. This corresponds to 12,089 decisions concerning 15,478 persons (including children accompanying their parents).

  • In 45.8 % of the decisions taken in 2016, refugee status was granted. This status is granted to persons who left their country because they fear persecution for reasons of race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership of a particular social group.
  • In 11.9 % of the decisions taken in 2016, subsidiary protection status was granted to persons who run a real risk of serious harm if they return to their country of origin.

This protection rate of 57.7 % is higher than the rate of 52.7 % in 2015. This increase is mainly due to the great number of asylum dossier from Syrians that were examined in 2016 by the CGRS. A total of 7,051 Syrians were granted protection in Belgium in 2016.

The top 3 countries of origin for recognition of refugee status are Syria, Iraq and Somalia. This shows once more that for persons from certain countries, there is still a strong need for protection.

3. Less than 10,000 pending dossiers – challenge for 2017: to eliminate the backlog

The total caseload of the CGRS is the number of dossiers in which the CGRS has not yet taken a decision. At the start of 2016, the CGRS had a caseload of 11,305 asylum dossiers. Due to the high influx of 2015, the caseload reached a peak in April 2016, with 18,375 dossiers. Since then, this figure has decreased, down to 14,815 dossiers by the end of 2016. As a number of 5,000 dossiers can be considered a normal caseload, the actual backlog of the CGRS is less than 10,000. If the number of asylum applications and the number of its staff remain more or less stable in 2017, the CGRS expects to have eliminated its backlog by the end of 2017. The CGRS is aware that long waiting times have a big impact on asylum seekers because of the uncertainty about their future this entails.

Statistics for 2016 are available on

Press contact: Tine Van Valckenborgh 02/205.50.56 – 0499/24.60.93 –

06 January 2017

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