(CN) - EU member states may send refugees seeking asylum to another member state or safe nation regardless of which state is responsible for processing the application, the European Court of Justice ruled Thursday.
Pakistani national Shiraz Mirza entered Hungary illegally through Serbia in August 2015 and lodged an asylum request with Hungarian authorities. But while his application was being processed, Mirza left Hungary and authorities their review on grounds Mirza had abandoned his application.
Czech authorities subsequently stopped Mirza trying to enter Austria, and sent the man back to Hungary. Mirza then filed a second asylum application - which Hungarian authorities rejected without review - and ordered him to be sent back to Serbia, through which he first entered the European Union and which Hungary considered a "safe third country" under the recently enacted Dublin III treaty on refugees.
While Serbia has begun the process of joining the EU, its membership in the union is likely years away.
Mirza sued Hungary over his pending removal to Serbia. The Hungarian court hearing the case asked the European Court of Justice whether Mirza can be sent to Serbia at all, since Hungary did not inform the Czech authorities that arrested Mirza of its practice of sending refugees to safe third nations when it agreed to take him back.
With Mirza in jail, the EU high court enacted its urgency procedures and took on the case immediately. And in a preliminary ruling issued Thursday, the Luxembourg-based court said that the Dublin treaty does not obligate Hungary to inform Czech authorities of its intention to send Mirza to a safe third nation when it agreed to take the man back.
On the other hand, the lack of communication between Hungary and Czechoslovakia also does not bar Mirza from fighting both his transfer to Serbia or Hungary's denial of his asylum application, the court said.
And to further muddy the waters, the high court said that Mirza's right to have a final decision on his first asylum application does not necessarily bar Hungarian authorities from denying the application as inadmissible or require them to pick up the review where they left off when Mirza left the country.
The Hungarian court must decide Mirza's case within the guidelines laid down by the EU high court, whose preliminary ruling was not available in English at press time.