Council of State judgement regarding interviews through video conference

Council of State suspends ‘interviews through video conference’ project in open centres.

As a result of an application for suspension as a matter of extreme urgency filed by various associations that applied for suspension of the ‘interviews through video conference’ project in open reception centres, the Council of State pronounced a judgement, in which the Council suspended the decision of the CGRS to implement this project.

According to the Council of State, the CGRS changes the conditions in which the interview takes place, by organizing interviews through video conference in open centres. The Council argues that the CGRS is not competent to do this, because the Royal Decree of 11 July 2003 regarding the functioning of the CGRS determines the conditions in which the interview takes place, and these conditions can only be modified by law.

The CGRS takes note of the judgement pronounced by the Council of State and will of course observe its content.

This means that the project can only proceed after the Royal Decree regarding the functioning of the CGRS has been modified, as a result of which the principle of organizing interviews through video conference can be included in the Royal Decree.

The CGRS emphasizes that it never intended to discontinue the system of physical interviews and replace it with interviews through video conference. Organizing interviews in our offices will always be preferable.

The video interview project was developed to guarantee the functioning of the CGRS and increase its efficiency. Some of its objectives are:

  • hearing persons who are unable to come to the CGRS (risk groups or persons unable to travel);
  • enabling the protection officers who are quarantined or belong to a risk group but are not sick, to conduct interviews;
  • being able to organize a number of interviews in case of a new general lockdown coupled with a travel ban;
  • providing a structure to organize an interview through video conference in certain cases.

The CGRS has always adopted a transparent and constructive attitude towards all the parties involved by informing them about this project and by organizing consultations with the bars.

We draw attention to the fact that in its communication of 16 April 2020, the European Commission encourages the Member States to organize interviews through video conference, in view of the COVID-19 context.

At EASO level, the EU Member States have exchanged information about ‘best practices’, that can guarantee that the asylum procedures can continue within the context of this pandemic. Video interviews are part of this.

Finally, UNHCR has formulated recommendations to deal with questions regarding international protection within the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. According to UNHCR, interviews through video conference are a good alternative to support the international asylum systems. (See Practical Recommendations and Good Practice to Address Protection Concerns in the Context of the COVID-19 Pandemic)

We remain convinced of the importance and of the added value of this project. The CGRS thinks that a video interview can be a valuable alternative to a face to face interview in certain circumstances, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, or for certain specific profiles. Therefore we will continue this project with some delay.

If you have any questions, please contact the CGRS spokesman: Damien.Dermaux@ibz.fgov.be.

17 December 2020

New address CGRS