All foreigners arriving in Belgium are entitled to apply for asylum and ask for the protection of the Belgian authorities. Asylum seekers must go through various steps, from submitting the application to the final decision. This is called the asylum procedure. The Belgian Government looks at whether the foreigner meets the criteria defined by the 1951 Geneva Convention relating to the status of refugees.
The Geneva Convention defines a refugee as any person:
"Who, owing to well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality and is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country; or who, not having a nationality and being outside the country of his former habitual residence as a result of such events, is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to return to it."
By signing this convention, Belgium undertook to protect refugees on its territory. Asylum seekers recognised as being refugees receive a resident’s permit.
In Belgium, asylum seekers are not entitled to financial assistance but to reception during the entire period that their application is being examined. The right to material assistance applies once the asylum application has been submitted and expires at the end of the procedure. Asylum seekers are not obliged to stay in the reception structure allocated to them, although the majority of them do so. The reception is organised in an open reception structure, managed by Fedasil or one of its partners.