Greece – District Court of Mytilene – Anonymised, 118/2017

Country of Decision:
Country of Applicant:
Date of Decision:
31-10-2017
Citation:
118/2017
Court Name:
District Court of Mytilene Presiding: Despoina Stapatori
Keywords:
Relevant Legislative Provisions:
International Law
International Law > 1951 Refugee Convention
Council of Europe Instruments > EN - Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms
Council of Europe Instruments
European Union Law > EN - Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union
European Union Law > Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union 2010/C 83/01
European Union Law > EN - Dublin II Regulation, Council Regulation (EC) No 343/2003 of 18 February 2003
National / Other Legislative Provisions:
Greece - The Constitution of the Hellenic Republic
Greece – Decree No. 141/2013 on harmonisation of Greek legislation with the recast Qualification Directive
Greece - Act 4375/2016
Greece - Presidential Decree No. 114/2010 entitled 'Refugee status: single procedure for foreigners and stateless persons'
Greece - Presidential Decree No. 220/2007
Greece - Legislative Act 1599/1986
Greece - Presidential Decree 393/1982
Greece - Civil Code
Greece - Code of Civil Procedure
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Headnote: 

The Court held that where asylum applicants are prevented from obtaining necessary documentation that would allow them to be granted a license to marry, due to their severed ties with their countries of origin, a simple statutory declaration will suffice as proof that there are no legal obstacles preventing them from getting married.   

Facts: 

Both applicants are currently holders of International Protection Applicant’s Cards. They had requested a civil marriage license from the relevant administrative authority to get married. However, their application was rejected due to insufficient documentation; namely, the applicants could  not produce evidence that there are no legal obstacles preventing them from getting married, which is a routine requirement under domestic law. Obtaining such documentation had been rendered impossible due to their status as applicants for international protection and the lack of any relationship with their countries of origin.

Following the refusal of the administrative authorities, they applied to the District Court for a license to proceed with their marriage.

Decision & Reasoning: 

The Court held that the license should have been provided given the dissolved ties between the applicants and their respective countries of nationality. In particular, given the dangerous situation created due to their illegal marriage in Iran along with the unstable status quo in Afghanistan, it is apparent that the applicants have a strenuous relationship with their countries of nationality which makes communication with them so hard that the acquisition of the necessary documentation becomes impossible.

Consequently, the Court highlighted that there is a need for balance between ensuring the enforcement of national family law and the protection of fundamental rights for refugees.  

In the particular instance of the applicants, who are already married (even though their marriage is not recognized in Iran) and are de facto cohabiting, it is evident that their family life falls under the scope of application of Article 8 ECHR.

The Court noted that it is essential that the obligation of the State to protect fundamental rights prevails over the protection of national family law and the Greek authorities must be more flexible in this respect. Therefore, the legal requirements must be overlooked in a situation where it is deemed impossible to provide the necessary documentation.

As a result, it held that, under such exceptional circumstances, and in instances of officially recognized refugees or applicants for international protection, a statutory declaration must suffice as proof that there are no legal obstacles to marriage in the same way as it is provided for Greek nationals. Otherwise, the authorities are essentially precluding the applicants from legalising their de facto family relationship, contrary to what the particularities of the case and their right to temporarily stay in the country dictates.

Outcome: 

The Court granted the application and ordered the issuance of a civil marriage license.