EU Magistrate Backs Refugee-Status Refusals

(CN) – Advising the EU’s highest court on three cases where people lost or were denied refugee status after they were convicted of serious crimes, a magistrate found that the decisions comport with EU law.

The opinion from Advocate General Melchior Wathelet is not available in English, but a press release from the European Court of Justice explains it was asked to weigh in on two immigration cases before a Belgian asylum court and one case before the Supreme Administrative Court of the Czech Republic.

In the first case out of Belgium, an Ivorian national identified only as X was refused refugee status on the ground that he had been convicted of “several particularly serious offenses prior to lodging his application for asylum.”

The second case in Belgium involved another X, described as a Congolese national who was convicted and sentenced to prison for particularly serious offenses after securing refugee states. This Congolese X had his refugee status withdrawn because Belgian authorities took the view that he constituted a danger to society.

Czech authorities also revoked refugee status from the immigrant in the third case, a Chechen individual identified only as M.

In addition to having been convicted and sentenced to prison in Czech Republic before he had secured his refugee status, M was convicted later of a particularly serious offense and lost his refugee status on national-grounds thereafter.

Wathelet noted in his opinion Thursday that member states are permitted to revoke or refuse refugee status, but such decisions do not change the fact that the people at issue are still refugees.

The distinction is manifest, Wathelet explained, in the fact “that some rights (such as the right to a residence permit, the recognition of qualifications, and healthcare) have no equivalent in the Geneva Convention, and that others (such as the right to access to employment, housing and social assistance) are guaranteed by that convention only to refugees who are legally resident in the country of refuge.”

Wathelet emphasized that, irrespective of the lawfulness of his residence, a refugee whose refugee status has been refused or revoked “retains all the rights guaranteed by the Geneva Convention … such as the rights to non-discrimination, access to justice and state education as well as protection against deportation.”

“Furthermore,” the press release out of Luxembourg continues, “the refusal to grant refugee status does not discharge the member state concerned from its obligation to examine the application for asylum submitted to it and to recognize the applicant’s refugee status, where appropriate, at the conclusion of that examination.”

Wathelet’s opinion is not binding on the Court of Justice, which will now begin its own deliberations in the case.

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