Refugees can only seek asylum in the country they first entered on arrival in Europe, but a German court is challenging this with a ruling that may offer hope to Syrians facing deportation.
Under the Dublin Regulation, refugees can only seek asylum and stay in the country they first entered in Europe. A court in the German state of Lower Saxony on Monday, however, ruled that two sisters from Germany cannot be deported to Greece, where they already officially obtained refugee status.
“The Senate stated that the plaintiffs were very likely to become homeless after being transferred back to Greece,” the court said in a statement.
By law, any recognised refugee has the right to receive necessary social and financial assistance in Greece, the most popular yet often most deadly stop on the migrant route.
“Current evidence suggests that refugees who have been returned are not provided with any accommodation by the state, that they do not receive any housing-related social benefits and that they have no significant chance of finding accommodation from non-state agencies,” the court said.
Upon their arrival in Germany, the Syrian sisters applied for asylum for a second time in the EU country. But the German Federal Office for Migration and Refugees rejected their applications on the basis that they had been recognised as refugees by Greece.
The decision by the German court is not a first. In January, a court in the country’s state of North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) ruled that two refugees who had previously been granted asylum, could now not be deported back to Greece due to the appalling conditions that refugees face in that country.
From a legal perspective, the most recent ruling builds on similar previous rulings and could set a positive legal precedent not only in Germany but also in other EU states, according to Tara Ansari, a specialist in European Asylum Law, based in Lesvos, Greece.
“German judgment is really important because the court is saying that, despite this legal framework that exists, because there's a serious risk of inhuman and degrading treatment --- these are fundamental human rights that are prohibited for states to violate,” she told TRT World.
“So they're creating a new legal basis that prevents the Dublin system, the EU law, from functioning as it is laid out to function,” she said
Applying for asylum for the second time in a different EU country is common practice for refugees, particularly those whose fingerprints first get registered in Greece.
Greece has long been under the spotlight for its ill-treatment of refugees who arrive at its coasts, as well as those who already live in the country. More than 2,000 recognised refugees from Greece made a subsequent application for asylum in Germany in 2021, according to Info Migrants, a migrant news portal.
Under a wave of right-wing politics, European states have been ramping up their efforts to deport refugees either back to their country of origin, or the EU countries they’re asked to seek asylum in as per protocol.
Denmark has announced that it deems Syria’s Damascus safe for refugees to return -- a decision that was condemned by international human rights organisations that say it may be deadly for them.
The fates of the ones who are not asked to go back to an active warzone on the other hand, are in the hands of regional courts that may or may not choose to challenge the Dublin protocol and EU countries’ immigration services.
Despite political pressure to increase deportations, Ansari says, regional rulings show that states are often able to find a legal basis to defy deportations.