Court Cautions Against Refugee Removal After Violent Crimes

A woman walks by the entrance to the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg on Oct. 5, 2015. (Geert Vanden Wijngaert, File)

(CN) – Member states that revoke or refuse asylum to individuals who otherwise represent a danger to their communities must still take care not to expel such people to countries where they face a genuine risk of persecution, the EU’s highest court ruled Tuesday.

Three anonymous immigrants from Chechnya, the Ivory Coast and the Democratic Republic of the Congo are at the center of today’s case.

Citing evidence that they would face persecution in their home countries, the three individuals each received or applied for the right to asylum in the Czech Republic and in Belgium only to have their status as refugees revoked or denied based on their convictions for violent crimes including robbery, rape and homicide.

The European Court of Justice agreed to consolidate the cases for consideration and found Tuesday that the Refugee Directive was applied against them properly.

Critical to the ruling, however, the Luxembourg-based court determined that the effect of revoking or refusing refugee status does not mean that the person is not a refugee nor that he no longer entitled to the rights that the Geneva Convention attaches to being a refugee.

“While, under the Geneva Convention, the persons covered by one of the scenarios described in Article 14(4) and (5) of Directive 2011/95 are liable, under Article 33(2) of that convention, to a measure whereby they are refouled or expelled to their country of origin, even though their life or freedom would be threatened in that country, such persons may not, by contrast, under Article 21(2) of that directive, be refouled if this would expose them to the risk of their fundamental rights, as enshrined in Article 4 and Article 19(2) of the Charter, being infringed,” the ruling concludes. “It is true that those persons may, in the member state concerned, be the subject of a decision revoking their refugee status as defined in Article 2(e) of Directive 2011/95, or a decision refusing to grant that status, but the adoption of such decisions cannot alter the fact of their being refugees where they satisfy the material conditions necessary to be regarded as being refugees for the purposes of Article 2(d) of that directive, read in conjunction with the provisions of Chapter III thereof and, accordingly, Article 1(A) of the Geneva Convention.”

The ruling emphasizes that “member states may not remove, expel or extradite a foreign national where there are substantial grounds for believing that he will face a genuine risk, in the country of destination, of being subjected to [prohibited] treatment.”

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