France - Administrative Court, M., n° 1603217, 2 May 2016

Country of Decision:
Country of Applicant:
Date of Decision:
02-05-2016
Citation:
M., [2016], TA, No. 1603217
Court Name:
Administrative Court of Lille
Printer-friendly versionPrinter-friendly version
Headnote: 

The court overturned a decision to transfer the Applicant to his first country of asylum, Bulgaria, and also overturned the placement of the Applicant in administrative detention for five days.

The court held that given the general state of reception conditions for asylum applicants in Bulgaria and the Applicant’s particular circumstances, in particular his physical vulnerability, there were substantial grounds for believing that there are systemic flaws in the asylum procedure and in the reception conditions for asylum applicants and that if the Applicant was handed over to Bulgarian authorities, his asylum application would not be properly examined or he would be at risk of suffering inhuman or degrading treatment contrary to Article 4 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights, and paragraph 2 of article 3 of Regulation (EU) no. 604/2013 known as “Dublin III” (the “Dublin III Regulation”).

Facts: 

According to the information provided, the explanations given by the Applicant and a medical certificate issued at the detention centre, the Applicant was arrested in Bulgaria at the end of November 2015 by the Bulgarian police. During his arrest, he was beaten and was unable to explain his specific circumstances and vulnerability of having only one kidney since he left his country of origin, given the lack of an interpreter. He was then taken away in a truck and placed in a large unheated room with other migrants where they were forced to strip naked, left without food and water for a number of hours, and forced to give their fingerprints. Those who refused were beaten again. They were locked in this room for twelve days, sleeping on iron beds without mattresses, without the ability to take a shower, and sharing only one toilet. Thereafter they were taken to the closed camp in Pastrogor. A camp officer offered the Applicant a green card allowing him to leave the camp for 100 euros. The Applicant paid this sum but never received the aforementioned card. Throughout the period of his detention (November 2015 to December 2015), the Applicant continued to request for medical help and assistance from an interpreter. However, these requests were never met. The Applicant had never intended to request for asylum in Bulgaria.

By a decision dated 27 February 2016, the Prefect for the North region held that the Applicant be transferred to the Bulgarian authorities and ordered that he be placed in administrative detention for five days.

Decision & Reasoning: 

The court noted that the facts relating to the time spent by the Applicant in Bulgaria were consistent with elements covered by reports and alerts published by the non-governmental organisations Pro Asyl, Amnesty International and Bulgarian Helsinki Committee. These reports and alerts relayed the violence committed during arrests, the deteriorated state of reception conditions for asylum applicants who were deprived of interpreters, medical help and frequently even food. They also reported the fact that the Bulgarian state had not distributed any financial support since March 2015.

The court further noted that the presumption that a Member State of the European Union participating in the implementation of the Dublin III Regulation meets its obligations under article 4 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union can be rebutted in the event of systemic flaws in the asylum procedure and in the case of reception conditions for asylum applicants in that member state resulting in those applicants suffering inhuman or degrading treatment.

The court considered that, given the general state of reception conditions of asylum applicants in Bulgaria and the circumstances relating to the Applicant, in particular his physical vulnerability, the Applicant had established that there were substantial grounds for believing that if the Applicant were handed over to Bulgarian authorities, his asylum application would not be properly examined or he would be at risk of inhuman or degrading treatment contrary to article 4  of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights, and paragraph 2 of article 3 of the Dublin III Regulation.

The decision ordering the transfer of the Applicant to the Bulgarian authorities was illegal and was therefore to be annulled, and consequently the decision placing him in administrative detention for five days was to be annulled as well.

Outcome: 

The decision dated 27 February 2016 was annulled. 

Subsequent Proceedings : 

A similar decision was given by the Administrative Tribunal of Versaille on the 26 December 2016 relating to a female applicant originating from Turkey. The Tribunal concluded that if the applicant were to be transferred to Bulgaria she risked not benefiting from an effective examination of her application and faced a real risk of an Article 3 violation.

Observations/Comments: 

This case summary was done by Linklaters LLP.

Other sources cited: 

Pro Asyl report dated December 2015 “Humiliated, ill-treated and without protection – refugees and asylum seekers in Bulgaria”

Amnesty International report dated 2015 relating to ill-treatment of asylum seekers in Bulgaria

Bulgarian Helsinki Committee alerts dated 29 October 2015 and 15 March 2016