EU High Court Rejects Sentence-Based Asylum Rules

(CN) – The European Court of Justice ruled Thursday that an EU member state cannot turn down requests for international protection based solely on the sentence an applicant receives for a crime, and instead must assess the seriousness of the crime on an individual basis.

In this Oct. 5, 2015 file photo, a man walks by the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg. (AP Photo/Geert Vanden Wijngaert, File)

The ruling against Hungary from the European Union’s highest court comes just a day after the European Parliament voted to pursue sanctions against the country.

Afghan national Shajin Ahmed obtained refugee status in Hungary in 2000 based on the risk of persecution he said he faced in his home country.

During later criminal proceedings against him in Hungary, Ahmed sent a request for protection to the consulate of Afghanistan. He was ultimately sentenced to a combined six years for attempted blackmail and attempted murder.

His refugee status was revoked in 2014 based on Hungarian authorities’ view that the risk of persecution in Afghanistan didn’t exist anymore because of Ahmed’s correspondence with his home country.

Ahmed filed a new application for refugee status and subsidiary protection status, which is a form of international protection for those seeking asylum who don’t qualify as refugees.

However, Hungarian authorities dismissed the application in 2016, finding that subsidiary protection could not be granted because the country’s law on the right to asylum contains an exclusion for the commission of a serious crime punishable by a sentence of five years or more.

On appeal, Hungary’s Administrative and Labour Court in Budapest stayed the case and asked the Luxembourg-based European Court of Justice whether a 2011 directive passed by the European Parliament prevents enforcement of a member state’s law defining the seriousness of a crime.

On Thursday, the high court ruled against the Hungary Immigration and Asylum Office, finding that EU law precludes any legislation from a member state that bars an applicant’s eligibility for subsidiary protection “on the basis of the sole criterion of the penalty provided for a specific crime.”

“It is for the authority or competent national court ruling on the application for subsidiary protection to assess the seriousness of the crime at issue, by carrying out a full investigation into all the circumstances of the individual case concerned,” the 11-page ruling states.

The ruling marks the second adverse EU action against Hungary in two days. On Wednesday, the European Parliament voted initiate proceedings to sanction the country, which is accused of passing laws that undermine the rule of law and violate democratic values and human rights.

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