Belgium Successfully Slows Down Migration

Steet view, Brussels Photo: Sinitta Leunen/

In Belgium, the number of the applications decreased by 8.8 percent in 2023, with more than 29 000 initial asylum applications – reports.

This is in stark contrast to the trend seen across other EU Member States. Where the number increased by 20.1 percent, with more 1 million people have applied according to Eurostat.

Respectively in the Netherlands and France, the increase was limited to 7.6 percent and 5.5 percent, respectively. However, in Germany an increase of 51.1 percent (!) was observed. This significant rise can be explained by a doubling of applications from Turkish asylum seekers due to the repression of the re-elected President Erdogan and the earthquake in February 2023.

Nicole de Moor, the Belgian State Secretary for Asylum and Migration pointed out: the decrease in Belgium can be explained by the fact that the number of asylum applications by unaccompanied minors from Afghanistan had fallen by a third. She also cited the effect of the Dublin principle, which sees asylum seekers being sent back to the country that first registered them in the EU.

However, migration researcher Pascal Debruyne (Odisee University) argued that governments “far too often mistakenly think they can control migration movements, but in practice, they only succeed to a limited extent.” He stressed that most people migrate to a certain country because they already know other people there.

With regard to recent data, the researcher said the decrease in numbers is primarily caused by the “poor and uncertain reception situation” in Belgium. Since October 2021, the government has denied asylum seekers shelter during their procedure, resulting in an asylum reception crisis. Thousands of people, including children, have been forced to sleep rough, find temporary accommodation, or seek help from civil society organizations after being denied access to the official network.

“People smugglers are also a steering factor in this: they determine routes based on what they know about restrictions in countries. Online information, on Facebook and other channels, also plays a part.”

Inequality in Distribution

In Belgium, most applicants were from Syria, Afghanistan, Palestine, Turkey, and Eritrea. Belgium ranked eighth among European Member States in terms of the number of applications received, with over 35 500 (-3.2 percent decrease from 2022), including files for ‘repeated applications’ (people starting a new procedure).

Last year, Germany, Spain, France, Italy and Greece made up the top five countries that received the highest number of first-time asylum applicants. They accounted for almost 80 percent of all applications, Eurostat figures showed.

This once again demonstrates that there is no even distribution of asylum applications across Europe. In 2022, the majority of asylum seekers in Europe were from Syria, Afghanistan, and Turkey.


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