(CN) – In an ongoing effort to keep governments from playing hot potato with refugees, the European Court of Justice ruled Thursday that member states can’t unilaterally transfer asylum seekers to the state where they applied for asylum.
The Luxembourg-based court’s preliminary ruling stems from a dispute involving France, Germany and an Iraqi national. The Iraqi man entered the European Union and applied for asylum in Germany. Before any decision had been made in his case, the man traveled to France and was promptly arrested by French authorities.
France demanded Germany take back the man since he had applied for asylum there. But the man took France to court, claiming the Dublin III regulation passed in 2013 to govern how asylum seekers are handled required Germany to be given the chance to reply to France’s demand before he was unilaterally transferred.
The court hearing the man’s appeal asked the EU high court for its reading of the Dublin III regulation, and on Thursday the court said a decision to transfer a refugee to the member state where he applied for asylum can only be made after the member state in question agrees to the transfer.
To allow France to do otherwise would force the refugee to file an appeal before anything has even been decided, as happened in this case. Furthermore, the court said such a unilateral decision would only be based on findings made by the member state demanding a transfer and not on evidence the member state holding the refugee’s application could provide.
The EU high court’s ruling is binding on the French court hearing the man’s case.