Since the Court of Justice judgements in the “Greek Transfer” cases (see NS and Others v SSHD (C-411/10) and in MSS v Belgium and Greece) in 2011, Members States are now effectively prohibited from applying the Dublin 2 Regulations in order to return asylum seekers to Greece. Following on from these judgements, it is not surprising that a body of case law is now developing to challenge Dublin 2 returns to other Member States with poor records in respect of the treatment of asylum applicants.
In December 2011, we blogged about the Austrian Courts prohibiting Dublin 2 returns to Hungary due to the potential risks of a breach of Article 4 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights – which prohibits torture and inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. Relying on these judgements we have been able to secure an undertaking from the Department of Justice not to deport a client of this office to Hungary.
We now wish to highlight some further decisions coming from the Belgian courts which suspend Dublin 2 returns to Malta for similar reasons. The Belgian Court’s decision, of the 6th January 2012, found that the applicant, of Somali nationality, had demonstrated an arguable claim based on Article 3 of the ECHR that he would be subject to inhuman treatment were he to be returned to Malta and thus suspended the execution of the State Secretary’s decision. The judgement is written in Dutch and summarized briefly in English by the UNHCR.
Summary of Belgian court’s judgement;
The applicant had previously applied for asylum in the Netherlands, but had been returned by that country to Malta in 2010 pursuant to the Dublin Regulation. He alleged that in Malta, he was left homeless and that, due to his failure to be provided with legal aid, his asylum request had not been properly considered. The applicant then requested asylum in Belgium on 27 October 2011, which the State Secretary for Asylum and Migration, Social Integration and Poverty Reduction refused to examine and then ordered his renewed transfer to Malta on 21 December 2011. The applicant, who was detained and scheduled to be transferred on 9 January 2012, requested suspension of the execution of the State Secretary’s decision under extremely urgent procedure on 5 January 2012.
Citing the report of Mr Thomas Hammarburg - Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe – dated 9th June 2011, the Belgian Court found that there were significant deficiencies with Malta’s detention policy regarding asylum-seekers and the living conditions in the detention centres, as well as clear shortcomings with respect to Malta’s asylum proceedings concerning legal aid and the asylum proceedings, partly caused by the detention policy. The Court found that the Belgian authorities should have been aware of these shortcomings and taken them into consideration in their decision to refuse to consider the applicant’s asylum request and transfer him back to Malta and which they failed to disprove in written pleadings.
Mr Thomas Hammarburg’s report identifies many concerns regarding Malta’s policies in respect of asylum seekers.