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Record number of refugees gain right to stay

Published on 05/01/2006

5 January 2006

BRUSSELS — Belgium gave residence status to a record 3,059 political refugees last year, a one-third increase compared with 2004.

The Commisionership-General for Refugees and Stateless said especially Chechens, Rwandans and Congolese nationals were recognised as political refugees.

The number of requests for asylum lodged with Belgium authorities fell to a record low in 2004, with just 15,357 refugees entering the country.

In 2000, some 42,000 asylum seekers entered the country, newspaper ‘De Tijd’ reported on Thursday.

The decline in the number of asylum requests was due to a federal government decision replacing financial assistance afforded to asylum seekers with material help instead.

However, the number of asylum requests increased slightly last year for the first time in five years.

Interior Minister Patrick Dewael will visit several countries again this year to advise its citizens against entering Belgium. In February, he will start with a visit to Russia.

The increase in the number of refugees granted official residence in Belgium last year is nonetheless noteworthy.  Never before were so many asylum seekers allowed to stay.

The commissionership-general gave residence status to 3,059 political refugees in 2005 compared with 2,275 in 2004, some 1,201 in 2003, 1,164 in 2002 and 896 in 2001.

The increase is partly due to a rise in the number of commissionership-general decisions. It made 24,086 decisions last year, a rise of 11 percent.

However, commissionership-general spokesman Dirk Van den Bulck said the main reason for the increase was because a backlog of asylum requests was processed. A large number of acceptable requests for asylum were among the backlog.

The majority of the refugees allowed to stay came from Russia and then primarily Chechnya (1,256), followed by Rwanda (444), Congo (204), Serbia-Montenegro (165), Iran (112) and Iraq (63).

Van den Bulck expects a decline in the number of approved asylum requests this year.
“By mid-year, all the old dossiers will have been processed. After that, we will only handle new requests. There will probably be less acceptable dossiers among those,” he said.

[Copyright Expatica News 2006]

Subject: Belgian news