EU deportation guidelines slammed in case of Afghan asylum seeker

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Jan 21, 2011

Strasbourg, France – A major pillar of the European Union’s asylum law was dealt a blow Friday as the European Court of Human Rights rebuked Belgium and Greece for following policies that led to the expulsion of an Afghan asylum seeker.

An Afghan asylum seeker holding a child stands in front of riot policemen during a demonstration outside the Greek parliament in Athens January 21, 2011. An estimated half a million illegal immigrants and asylum seekers live in the Mediterranean state of about 11 million inhabitants, many of them in Athens, and an increasing share of those trying to reach the EU come in through Greece. REUTERS/John Kolesidis (GREECE - Tags: SOCIETY POLITICS)

The two countries were found to have violated regulations against the inhumane treatment of a person and were ordered to pay damages of 25,900 euros (35,100 dollars), though the lion’s share – 24,900 euros – will fall upon Belgium.

According to the court, the Afghan man entered Greece and then, in 2009, reached Belgium, where he sought asylum. Belgian authorities opted to deport the man back to Greece, despite knowing that Greek facilities were already overwhelmed by asylum seekers.

By ignoring the conditions on the ground, Belgium violated rules for humane treatment of people, ruled the court. But the plaintiff has also complained about awful conditions at Greek asylum centres.

The court ruled that Greece must now review his petition ‘without delay and in accordance with human rights conventions.’ He must be allowed to stay in Greece until the review is complete.

The ruling could call into question the EU’s Dublin II Regulation, which allows EU countries to deport illegal immigrants to the first EU country they entered for a decision on their status.

Human rights activists have called for a review of the rule which, as currently used, means a large percentage of such cases currently fall upon the Mediterranean countries. Several Northern European countries have stopped deporting immigrants to Greece because of reports of crowded conditions at processing centres there.


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