(CN) - Europe's highest court made it easier for citizens of violent countries to seek asylum in European Union member states, ruling that refugees of conflict zones don't have to prove that their lives have been personally threatened.
The European Court of Justice ruled that an Iraqi couple could stay in the Netherlands, because international protection extends to former residents of violence-plagued countries, according to a European Council directive.
The directive's definition of a "serious and individual threat to life or person" covers a more general risk of harm posed by the violent conditions of an asylum seeker's home country, the court ruled.
"[T]he existence of such a threat can exceptionally be considered to be established where the degree of indiscriminate violence characterizing the armed conflict taking place ... reaches such a high level that substantial grounds are shown for believing that a civilian, returned to the relevant country, would, solely on account of his presence on the territory of that country or region, face a real risk of being subject to serious and individual threat," the court wrote.
The court added that the national authorities and courts of member states must decide which countries have high enough levels of indiscriminate violence to warrant protection of former residents.
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