CJEU - C-652/16, Nigyar Rauf Kaza Ahmedbekova, Rauf Emin Ogla Ahmedbekov v Zamestnik-predsedatel na Darzhavna agentsia za bezhantsite

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Country of Applicant: 
Azerbaijan
Date of Decision: 
04-10-2018
Citation: 
C-652/16
Court Name: 
Court of Justice of the European Union (Second Chamber)
Relevant Legislative Provisions: 
Headnote: 

CJEU rules on the correct processing of applications for international protection lodged separately by family members and the interrelationship between them.

Facts: 

The case concerns a Mrs Ahmedbekova and son, both Azerbaijani nationals. In 2014, the applicant’s husband lodged a claim for international protection in Bulgaria which was rejected. At the same time the applicant lodged applications for herself and her son, these were also rejected.

The applicant then appealed this decision, in this appeal she relies on both the persecution of her husband by the Azerbaijani authorities and circumstances concerning her individually.

Regarding her personal circumstances, she claims that she risks being persecuted because of her political opinions and that she was sexually harassed at her workplace in Azerbaijan. With regards to the risk of persecution on account of her political opinion, the applicant referred to her involvement in a complaint brought against Azerbaijan before the European Court of Human Rights and by her involvement in the defence of persons who have already been persecuted by the Azerbaijani authorities because of their activities in connection with defending human rights.

Decision & Reasoning: 

The Bulgarian court asks how applications for international protection lodged separately by family members must be processed and if the fact that the applicant for international protection was involved in bringing a complaint against her country of origin before the European Court of Human Rights is a relevant factor for the purpose of determining whether international protection must be granted.

First, regarding the case where a person lodges an application, on their own and on behalf of a dependant, the Court confirmed that this is not covered by the inadmissibility ground of Article 33 (2)e of Directive 2013/32. According to the Court, that ground concerns cases where the dependant submits their own application, after having consented to the first application. Furthermore, this finding cannot be compromised by the fact that the application is based, among other facts, on a family tie with another person, who has also lodged a separate application for asylum. The latter should instead be assessed in the context of possible risks stemming from family ties with the person submitting the main claim of risk.

In this context, the Court started by reiterating its own case law on the importance of individual assessment of asylum claims, to be carried out in the context of the applicant’s personal circumstances. However, it concurred with AG Mengozzi’s conclusion in his Opinion that, during that assessment, the applicant’s possible risk of persecution or serious harm, due to their family tie with the person at primary risk, must be taken into account. Lastly, regarding the mother’s personal claim that her involvement in ECtHR proceedings against Azerbaijan put her at risk, the Court held that such an involvement could be considered a reason to grant asylum, if Azerbaijan would consider the complaint before the ECtHR as political dissent, with the purpose of retaliating against the regime.

Second, on the procedural considerations of interrelated applications by family members, the Court found that the need for prompt assessment of asylum requests, as interpreted in the Alheto case, means that an application for asylum cannot be suspended until another family member’s application is processed. However, the authorities can consider prioritising the assessment of the main application, upon which all claims are eventually based, before proceeding with the remaining applications, always in a timely manner. According to the Court, a single assessment of separate asylum requests lodged by family members would be unlawful, but an assessment of the interaction and relationship between those requests is not precluded by EU law.

Furthermore, on the question of the lawfulness of extension of refugee status to family members, the Court noted that this is in accordance with Directive 2011/95/EU, as long as there are no grounds for exclusion of that member, and the extension remains consistent with the overall rationale of the Directive’s provisions on family unity and international protection. Lastly, the Court clarified the conditions and scope of review, of evidence and arguments that are being presented for the first time at the second-instance proceedings, focusing on the significance, content and time of presentation of the new elements.

Outcome: 

In light of the above, the Second Chamber ruled:

1. Article 4 of Directive 2011/95/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 13 December 2011 on standards for the qualification of third-country nationals or stateless persons as beneficiaries of international protection, for a uniform status for refugees or for persons eligible for subsidiary protection, and for the content of the protection granted, must be interpreted as meaning that, in carrying out the assessment of an application for international protection on an individual basis, account must be taken of the threat of persecution and of serious harm in respect of a family member of the applicant for the purpose of determining whether the applicant is, because of his family tie to the person at risk, himself exposed to such a threat.

2. Directive 2011/95 and Directive 2013/32/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 26 June 2013 on common procedures for granting and withdrawing international protection must be interpreted as not precluding applications for international protection lodged separately by members of a single family from being subject to measures intended to address any interaction between applications, but as precluding those applications from being subject to a single assessment. They also preclude the assessment of one of those applications from being suspended until the conclusion of the examination procedure in respect of another of those applications.

3. Article 3 of Directive 2011/95 must be interpreted as permitting a Member State, when granting international protection to a family member pursuant to the system established by that directive, to provide for an extension of the scope of that protection to other family members, provided that they do not fall within the scope of a ground for exclusion laid down in Article 12 of that directive and that their situation is, due to the need to maintain family unity, consistent with the rationale of international protection.

4. Article 33(2)(e) of Directive 2013/32 does not cover a situation, such as that at issue in the main proceedings, in which an adult lodges, in her own name and on behalf of her minor child, an application for international protection which is based, inter alia, on a family tie with another person who has lodged a separate application for international protection.

5. The involvement of an applicant for international protection in bringing a complaint against his country of origin before the European Court of Human Rights cannot in principle be regarded, for the purposes of assessing the reasons for persecution referred to in Article 10 of Directive 2011/95, as proof of that applicant’s membership of a ‘particular social group’, within the meaning of Article 10(1)(d) of that directive, but must be regarded as a reason for persecution for ‘political opinion’, within the meaning of Article 10(1)(e) of the directive, if there are valid grounds for fearing that involvement in bringing that claim would be perceived by that country as an act of political dissent against which it might consider taking retaliatory action.

6. Article 46(3) of Directive 2013/32 read in conjunction with the reference to the appeal procedure contained in Article 40(1) of that directive, must be interpreted as meaning that a court before which an action has been brought against a decision refusing international protection is, in principle, required to examine, as ‘further representations’ and having asked the determining authority for an assessment of those representations, grounds for granting international protection or evidence which, whilst relating to events or threats which allegedly took place before the adoption of the decision of refusal, or even before the application for international protection was lodged, have been relied on for the first time during those proceedings. That court is not, however, required to do so if it finds that those grounds or evidence were relied on in a late stage of the appeal proceedings or are not presented in a sufficiently specific manner to be duly considered or, in respect of evidence, it finds that that evidence is not significant or insufficiently distinct from evidence which the determining authority was already able to take into account.

Observations/Comments: 

Opinion of Advocate General Mengozzi, delivered on 28 June 2018:

During the individual assessment of asylum claims the applicant’s possible risk of persecution or serious harm, due to their family tie with the person at primary risk, must be taken into account.

Attachment(s): 
Other sources cited: 

Judgment of 25 January 2018, F, C 473/16, EU:C:2018:36;  Judgment of 5 September 2012, Y and Z, C 71/11 and C 99/11, EU:C:2012:518; Judgment of 18 December 2014, M’Bodj, C 542/13, EU:C:2014:2452; Judgment of 9 November 2010, B and D, C 57/09 and C 101/09, EU:C:2010:661; Judgment of 7 November 2013, X and Others, C 199/12 to C 201/12, EU:C:2013:720

Authentic Language: 
Bulgarian
Country of preliminary reference: 
Bulgaria