Who can be found in detention centres ?

In total, one may assess that around 7,000 people per year are detained in the centres.

Arrested at the borders (harbours or airports): 

The reasons why a foreigner may be turned back are many: not have the required documents in his/her possession, not have sufficient financial means, not present the documents justifying the purpose and conditions of his/her stay, might jeopardize Belgium’s international relations, public calmness, public order, etc. It is the federal police in charge of the immigration control that may appreciate the individual situations and turn back the people. Actually, there is no real effective appeal to counter this turning back measure.

  • The “turned back” people who did not seek asylum. (they are called the “inadmissible persons” – they used to stay in the INAD centre and are now detained in the new centre Caricole). These people do not have access to the Belgian territory and they will be put on board of the first plane to the country they had landed from (which is not necessarily their country of origin).
  • The foreigners who arrive at the border without the necessary documents and who request asylum. These people are detained during the whole  asylum request examination process.
  • The people whose asylum request has been dismissed and who are waiting for their deportation.

Arrested in Belgium :

  • Following the regularisation in 2009, many people got arrested at home because they had given their address for administrative reasons, despite the lack of response to their requests. They are directly brought to detention centres and often get the negative answer to their request once imprisoned.
  • Asylum seekers whose request has been dismissed (and also the people who introduced an appeal to the Council of State), even though they spent the whole asylum procedure in an open centre.
  • Asylum seekers whose request was deemed “suspect” by the Foreign Office (asylum seekers on the territory may be detained as from the introduction of their request. Fifteen criteria allow this detention: the foreigner who did not introduce his asylum request when the authorities in charge of the control questioned him, the foreigner who presented fake or falsified ID or travel documents, the foreigner who got rid of his ID or travel document, etc.
  • Asylum seekers for whom the Foreign Office think the request relies on another State than Belgium (cases called “Dublin II” refering to the international convention dealing with the responsibility of States in matter of repatriation of foreigners who travelled through a first country of the Union). They are detained during the time necessary to determine which State is responsible and to implement the transfer.
  • People who introduce a second request in Belgium.

Arrested in Belgium without having introduced anythinge who illegally entered Belgium or whose stay has become illegal, whatever the reasons of their stay.  The people arrested on the Belgian territory who are not in possession of the necessary documents, the people whose legal stay length in the Kingdom has passed, the people considered as a risk for public order or national security,or the people who carry out an independent or subordinated professional activity without the necessary authorisation. It is notably the case for most of the regularisation seekers 9bis (for “exceptional” circumstances).

  • People who introduced their asylum request in a detention centre: being in a situation of illegal stay, they were detained. Once in a detention centre, they stay there during the whole procedure.


  • Community nationals – annual reports of the centres attest that community nationals are detained in the Belgian detention centres in view of their deportation. According to the declarations of the Foreign Office’s officer, such nationals may be arrested by the police because they are suspected of having taken part in “small crimes” or having worked “on the black market”; they are then brought to detention centres in view of their deportation.

Problematic nationalities :

Many people coming from countries at war or who could have access to a right to asylum are very regularly being detained and deported from Belgian detention centres (mainly political opponents from Congo, Iraq, Palestine, Iran, etc. ).

Testimony of an Afghan man

Testimonies of Palestinians : Testimony 1 ; Testimony 2

Testimonies of Iranians : Testimony 1 ; Testimony 2 ; Testimony 3

Testimony of a Somalian

Pregnant women :

We also noticed the frequent presence of pregnant women, with deportation attempts very often almost at full term, and detention conditions totally unadapted to their situation.

There are also pregnant women here, like this girl who doesn’t want to eat today. She is six months pregnant”. (Listen to the testimony)