The Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights issued a decision today in the CASE OF M.S.S. v. BELGIUM AND GREECE (Application no. 30696/09) (also FR) and concluded that Belgium should not have returned an Afghan asylum seeker to Greece under the Dublin II regulation which mandates that asylum claims are to be considered in the state where the asylum seeker first entered Europe.
This is the first decision from the ECtHR addressing the application of the Dublin II regulation. According to European Voice, the “Court [currently] has around 960 cases pending that relate to the Dublin regulation, against the Netherlands, Finland, Belgium, the United Kingdom and France, most of them concerning expulsions to Greece.”
I have not had a chance to read the decision closely yet, but here is some basic information about today’s decision (more to follow in a subsequent post):
“In today’s Grand Chamber judgment in the case M.S.S. v. Belgium and Greece (application no. 30696/09), which is final, the European Court of Human Rights held, by a majority, that there had been:
A violation of Article 3 (prohibition of inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment) of the European Convention on Human Rights by Greece both because of the applicant’s detention conditions and because of his living conditions in Greece;
A violation of Article 13 (right to an effective remedy) taken together with Article 3 by Greece because of the deficiencies in the asylum procedure followed in the applicant’s case;
A violation of Article 3 by Belgium both because of having exposed the applicant to risks linked to the deficiencies in the asylum procedure in Greece and because of having exposed him to detention and living conditions in Greece that were in breach of Article 3;
A violation of Article 13 taken together with Article 3 by Belgium because of the lack of an effective remedy against the applicant’s expulsion order.”
ECRE released a statement describing the decision as a “major blow to the Dublin system.” Excerpts from the ECRE statement:
“Bjarte Vandvik, ECRE Secretary General, stated: ‘This judgment is a major blow to the Dublin system. The assumption that all EU Member States respect fundamental rights and that it is therefore safe to automatically transfer asylum seekers between EU countries no longer stands. Europe must seriously rethink the Dublin system and replace it with a regime that ensures the rights of asylum seekers are respected’.
This judgment will affect many asylum seekers in Europe. In 2010 alone, EU countries requested Greece to examine the applications of almost 7,000 asylum seekers who had entered the EU through Greece. Their situation will now need to be re-examined in light of this ruling.
Bjarte Vandvik [also] stated: ‘European countries must comply with the Court’s ruling, stop sending asylum seekers back to Greece, and examine asylum applications themselves until a fair asylum system is in place in Greece’.
The Dublin system fails refugees and Member States and needs to be changed. This ruling reflects the serious shortcomings in the asylum procedure in Greece and in Belgium and it also highlights the flaws in the Dublin system itself. ECRE has long stressed that Dublin shifts responsibility for asylum seekers to states at Europe’s frontiers. Also, it allows refugees to be sent back to European countries where their fundamental rights are not respected.
As a first step in the right direction, ECRE supports the Commission proposal to review the Dublin Regulation, as it introduces significant humanitarian reforms and important procedural safeguards. For example, the proposal makes it easier for asylum seekers to join family members living in Europe, protects the rights of children who have arrived alone and ensures the continuity of care for vulnerable persons.
However, these are only temporary measures that do not solve the sometimes devastating impact of the Dublin system on asylum seeker’s human rights. Ultimately the Dublin Regulation should be abolished and replaced by a more humane and equitable system that considers the connections between individual asylum seekers and particular Member States.”
Click here for full ECRE Statement on the decision.