Seven young men from Burundi national youth handball team are detained in a detention centre

Seven young men from Burundi national youth handball team are detained in a detention centre
In August 2023, the Burundi national youth handball team travelled to Croatia to participate in the Men’s Youth World Handball Championship 2023. 
During this event, some of the players fled to Belgium and applied for international protection, fearing for their return to Burundi because of a “general human rights crisis” there (2 and 3). They are now in detention centre.
Upon arrival in Belgium, many of them were subjected to a medical test because the Immigration Department had doubts about their minority status. This medical examination included 3 bone scans (teeth, collarbone and wrist) to estimate their age (4). Many of them were considered to be above 18, consequently falling under the Dublin Regulation. Belgium argues that they should be returned to Croatia, as they should be responsible for processing the players’ request for international protection under the Dublin Regulation.
On Tuesday 7 November 2023, the players were all summoned to the Immigration Department as part of their Dublin procedure. This turned out to be a trap: the police were waiting for them. They arrested seven of the players, and took them to detention centres before their deportation to Croatia, where the bad treatments of migrants are numerous and regularly criticised
This is not the first time the Belgian Immigration Department has organised deportations to Croatia. On 16 March 2023, a collective flight was already organised to Croatia with dozens of people, including 20 Burundians who were never heard from again (6).
By sending these people back to Croatia, the Belgian state has no guarantee that their asylum applications will be adequately processed given the numerous systemic problems in the Croatian asylum system. These young people have been identified and their case has caused a stir in Burundi. 
It cannot be ruled out that the authorities in Croatia will do everything in their power to send them back to Burundi.
It is essential that Belgium declares itself competent to deal with their application and that the Burundese players are not sent back to Croatia where their lives are in danger, as in Burundi (7).
CRACPE Collectif de résistance aux centres pour étrangers
DBB asbl Diaspora Burundaise de Belgique
Association pour la coopération et d’Auto Développement ACAD
(3) This situation is also recognised by the Council for Immigration Disputes in a ruling of 22 November 2022 stated that “the mere fact that the person has resided in Belgium and applied for international protection there justifies the fear of persecution based on convictions” (
(4) This method is highly problematic, particularly because of its unreliability. These tests have a significant margin of error,
(7)Until September 2023, the CGRS made 924 decisions regarding persons of Burundian nationality and granted status to 758 persons, which is more than 80%.
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