ISO certification for emergency reception center


In 2012, the emergency reception center for asylum seekers in Houthalen-Helchteren was awarded ISO 9001:2008 certification – an achievement without precedent anywhere in the world.

We set up the Houthalen-Helchteren center in 2010 at breakneck speed at the request of the federal government, to address an acute shortage of reception places. From the outset, the challenge was to create a reception center that met all the requirements of the Reception Law and could provide its own schooling.

Due to the large size of the center  – which demanded efficient communication – and the fact that 50 new staff were to start work simultaneously, there was a need for precise procedures, thorough methodology and clear working arrangements.

In view of this fact, we decided to apply for ISO 9001:2008 certification. Essentially, what that means is: say what you do, do what you say and prove it. By having the quality of the center externally assessed, we are able to communicate our quality mindset more clearly. It also demonstrates that the scant operational resources we receive from government are put to efficient use.

The keys to our success in gaining ISO 9001:2008 certification were:

  • pioneering management;
  • involving all staff in the continuous improvement process;
  • having a clear vision;
  • organizing transparent and continuous communication within the team;
  • dealing with shortcomings constructively;
  • enshrining arrangements in work instructions or procedures;
  • setting up a comprehensive document management system;
  • developing an efficient IT system in SharePoint.

    In the medium term, we aim to translate the knowledge acquired in this process to our regular reception centers, thereby further enhancing the quality and efficiency of our reception services.
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