In 2021, Belgium received 112 000 new immigrants on a long-term or permanent basis (including changes of status and free mobility), 21% more than in 2020. This figure comprises 56.9% immigrants benefitting from free mobility, 4.7% labour migrants, 29.3% family members (including accompanying family) and 9% humanitarian migrants. Around 9 000 permits were issued to tertiary-level international students and 1 000 to temporary and seasonal labour migrants (excluding intra-EU migration). In addition, 174 000 intra-EU postings were recorded in 2021, a 3% increase compared to 2020. These posted workers are generally on short-term contracts.

Romania, France and the Netherlands were the top three nationalities of newcomers in 2021. Among the top 15 countries of origin, Afghanistan registered the strongest increase (+3 100) in flows to Belgium compared to the previous year.

In 2022, the number of first asylum applicants increased by 64%, to reach around 32 000. The majority of applicants came from Afghanistan (5 800), Syria (3 200) and Burundi (2 700). The largest increase since 2021 concerned nationals of Burundi (+2 200) and the largest decrease nationals of Somalia (-300). Of the 24 000 decisions taken in 2022, 45% were positive.

Emigration of Belgian citizens to OECD countries increased by 19% in 2021, to 30 000. Approximately 22% of this group migrated to France, 19% to Portugal and 16% to Spain.

Belgium has been experiencing a saturation of its reception network since the summer of 2021. In 2022, the reception and registration of applicants for international protection were split into two separate locations, in an attempt to reduce pressure on the arrival centre. The Federal Agency for the Reception of Asylum-Seekers (Fedasil) undertook several measures in response to the reception crisis, such as the recruitment of extra staff and the opening of new centres. The Belgian Government also urged the Office of the Commissioner-General for Refugees and Stateless Persons (CGRS), responsible for the processing of applications for international protection, to take measures to address its backlog.

In response to the influx of persons fleeing the war in Ukraine, a centre was opened specifically for individuals to register for temporary protection. Housing assistance was provided by the regions and by Fedasil and the Belgian Red Cross for persons in need of emergency accommodation. All Regions also undertook initiatives to facilitate access to the labour market, and some language-based Communities provided extra support for schools to accommodate children having fled the war in Ukraine.

The Immigration Office continued the deployment of Individual Case Management (ICAM) coaches throughout the country, to support irregularly-staying migrants towards a long-term solution, either a legal stay in Belgium or a return. An agreement was reached on the construction of four new detention (“closed”) centres, one of which replaces an existing centre.

The EU Directive on researchers, trainees and volunteers (Directive (EU) 2016/801) was partially transposed to facilitate participation to European volunteer projects, increase access to traineeships, and make third-country researchers legally eligible for a “search year”. To address labour shortages, the Walloon Region and the German-speaking Community added 33 and 6 professions (respectively) to their list of bottleneck professions.

In the field of migrant integration, the extension of the Flemish civic integration programme with a fourth pillar came into force in January 2023. In addition to the first three pillars (social orientation, Dutch L2, and strengthening of economic self-reliance), the new pillar offers newly-arrived migrants a 40-hours tailor-made programme to strengthen their social network and to enable participation in society. The civic integration programmes (French and Flemish) of the Brussels-Capital Region became mandatory as of 1 June 2022, and are now accessible to all third-country nationals (as opposed to only newcomers), regardless of their length of stay in Belgium. This change harmonises the integration conditions with the rest of the country. Furthermore, third-country nationals who have been residing in Belgium for more than five years can now resort to the successful completion of a civic integration programme in order to prove their social integration for the acquisition of Belgian citizenship.

Finally, in July 2022, the federal government approved its contribution the Interfederal Action Plan to Combat Racism (2021-24), adopting an intersectoral approach. In order to combat labour market discrimination, sectors will receive funding and guidance through three phases, starting with baseline measurement. The findings will be communicated by the end of 2023, with monitoring and further actions planned.

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