Greece - Council of State, 29 June 2009, Application No. 2160/2009

Country of Decision:
Country of Applicant:
Date of Decision:
29-06-2009
Citation:
Application No. 2160/2009
Court Name:
Council of State, Chamber D
National / Other Legislative Provisions:
Greece - Σύμβαση της Γενεύης 1951 Νομοθετικό Διάταγμα 3989/1959 (Geneva Convention 1951 Legislative Decree)
Greece - Αναγκαστικός Νόμος 389/1968 (Φύλλο Εφημερίδας Κυβερνήσεως 125 Τεύχος Α) (Emergency Act)
Greece - Presidential Decree No. 61/1999
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Headnote: 

The discrepancies between the evidence which the Administration and the asylum Applicant presented to the Council of State created serious doubts about whether the facts invoked by the Applicant to confirm his refugee status were correctly recorded and in general about the lawful examination of the said application in compliance with the procedures stipulated by the provisions of Articles 2(3) and 3(7) of Presidential Decree 61/1999.

Facts: 

The Applicant entered Greece illegally and submitted an application for asylum. In his application he wrote, by hand, that he was a “man of religion” and, in the section of the form which records the person's nationality, that he was a member of the “...”. In the “report on verbal examination of asylum seeker”, however, it was recorded that the Applicant is a Muslim with Bangladeshi nationality, and that he came to Greece in order to work. The application was rejected by decision 95/58148/22.11.2006 by the Chief of the Security and Order Branch of the Ministry of Public Order, giving the justification that there was no indication that the Applicant faced individual persecution for any of the reasons cited in Article 1A of the 1951 Convention, and that the Applicant had left his country to seek employment and to improve his standard of living. The Applicant appealed against that decision, stating that he had a well-founded fear of persecution in his country of origin. According to the 1.3.2007 minutes of the Asylum Advisory Committee, which were included in the file sent to the Court by the Administration, the Applicant stated that he left his homeland for political reasons and, specifically, because (even though he was not particularly heavily involved in politics) supporters of opposing political parties had brought various spurious charges against him and there was a risk that he would be sent to prison “because they frequently harass his wife, asking after him”. Nevertheless, the Committee unanimously recommended rejecting the appeal and the General Secretary rejected it in the contested decision, giving the following justification: “The Applicant, who had claimed in his initial application that he had left his country for economic reasons, told the Asylum Advisory Committee that he left his country fearing for his life because of political conflicts. These unfounded and contradictory claims – also taking into consideration the prevailing conditions in his country of origin – cannot establish that there is a fear that, upon return to the country, there would be individual persecution by the authorities on the grounds of race, religion, nationality, social group or political opinion which would lead to recognition of his refugee status. From the above it appears that he left his country for economic reasons and is using his application for asylum as a means to facilitate his stay in the country in order to find employment and improve his standard of living.” In that decision, the General Secretary gave the Applicant a three-month deadline to leave the country.

Decision & Reasoning: 

The Council of State (CoS) began by presenting the evidence in the file and citing the relevant domestic and international legislation. It went on to say that in the current appeal, supplemented by additional grounds in the court papers, the Applicant was alleging that his actual claims about the risk of persecution upon his return to Bangladesh had not been recorded or taken into account by the relevant bodies, and that the merits of his application had not been examined by the Asylum Committee or by the General Secretary who rejected his appeal, given that: a) whereas he, himself, had stated in his written application for asylum that his nationality was ... and that he was a “man of religion”, the report on his verbal examination recorded that he was a Muslim with Bangladeshi nationality, and that he left his country for economic reasons; and b) whereas the aforementioned minutes of the Asylum Advisory Committee dated 1.3.2007 (which were included in the file which the administration sent to the Court) show the Applicant to have claimed what was set out previously (about political grounds, risk of arrest, and spurious allegations by supporters of opposing political parties), a copy of the minutes of that Committee which the Applicant himself submitted to the Court – authenticated by the Administration, bearing the same date of 1.3.2007, and referring to the same Applicant and the examination of his appeal “against order 95/58148/22.11.2006” – records that “he left his country for economic reasons”. The CoS held that in view of those contradictions (which were confirmed by the evidence in the file and the authenticated copy of the Asylum Committee's report which the Applicant submitted) concerning the recording of details which are critical to the examination of the asylum application – such as the Applicant's religion and what drove him to leave his country – create serious doubts about the proper recording of facts, and in general about the lawful examination of the application in question in compliance with the procedures stipulated by the provisions of the aforementioned Articles 2(3) and 3(7) of Presidential Decree 61/1999. For that reason, the CoS held that, as had been justly alleged, the current application should be accepted.

Outcome: 

The CoS accepted the application, annulled decision 95/58148/19.3.2007 by the General Secretary of the Ministry of Public Order as set out in the reasoning, referred the case back to the Administration for a new lawful hearing, ordered the State to pay the Applicant’s court costs and ordered the return of the fee.

Observations/Comments: 

This decision is particularly interesting because it shows some of the problems in the asylum process in Greece, particularly relating to holding a personal interview with the Applicant during the examination of his application for asylum. With particular reference to the personal interview procedure, the lack of interpreters or the inadequate training thereof is a frequent problem which leads to situations such as the case in question. In this case the CoS, contemplating the contradictions arising from the case file, held that they created serious doubts about the correct recording of events and, in general, about the lawful examination of the application in question; and it was right to refer the case back to the Administration for a new, lawful hearing.

Court composed of: P. Pikrammenos, Vice-President of the Council of State, presiding in place of the President of the Division and the Deputy President who were both unavailable; E. Sarp, Ch. Rammos, Councillors; O. Zygoura, M. Sotiropoulou, Associate Councillors. The Clerk was D. Mouzaki, Clerk of Chamber D.