On June 8 the General Assembly of the Belgian Council of Alien Law Litigation rejected the suspension of Dublin transfer of a Palestinian asylum seeker from Belgium to Greece meaning that the person will be transferred. While the judgment notes that there are remaining problems in the asylum procedure and reception conditions in Greece, it establishes that they no longer qualify as systemic deficiencies and that the applicant does not run a risk of ill-treatment.

On 8 December 2016 the European Commission recommended that Member States resume Dublin transfers to Greece which had been suspended since 2011 following two judgments of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) and the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU). In its judgment the Council of Alien Law Litigation accepts the Immigration Office reference to these recommendations.

“It must be emphasized that the judgment does not give carte blanche to the Belgian authorities to transfer any asylum seeker back to Greece. Quite the contrary: the judgment makes it clear that strict conditions apply, in particular no transfer of vulnerable asylum seekers and the need for very specific individual guarantees. This has to be verified on a case by case basis with the Greek authorities. Thus, the impact of the judgment is likely to be limited,” says ECRE Secretary General Catherine Woollard.

The judgment concerns the case of a Palestinian who arrived in Greece with a visa and therefore did not reach Greece through Turkey and via the islands. The Belgian authorities have received assurances from Greece regarding reception conditions and access to the asylum procedures for this individual. There are no indications that the person belongs to a vulnerable group of asylum seekers and the recognition rate for Palestinians in Greece is 96%, so it is highly likely the person will receive refugee status in Greece.

If Belgium tries to carry out large-scale Dublin returns to Greece, the Greek authorities may not be able to provide the necessary individual guarantees in many cases. Since the European Commission’s recommendations on restarting Dublin transfers some countries have submitted many requests for Dublin transfers to Greece. However, the actual number of transfers remains low: from January to May 2018 out of 1751 requests, only 75 were accepted by Greece and only 6 actually carried out. In 2017 there were 2266 requests, 94 accepted by Greece and only 1 carried out (in 2016 13 transfers were carried out).


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Photo: (CC) Russ Morris, May 2017


This article appeared in the ECRE Weekly Bulletin . You can subscribe to the Weekly Bulletin here.