Greece - Hellenic Council of State, 16 December 2014, 4527/2014

Country of Decision:
Country of Applicant:
Date of Decision:
16-12-2014
Court Name:
Hellenic Council of State (Supreme Administrative Court of Greece)
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Headnote: 

The appellant sought to have the decision of the Secretary General of the Ministry of Public Order annulled, under which her previous application for her and her son to be recognised as refugees had been rejected. The Hellenic Council of State rejected the current appeal, due to the fact that the appellant had invoked financial reasons for leaving Syria and as such, had no legal basis to be recognised as a refugee. 

Facts: 

The appellant was a resident of Syria, of Palestinian origin. She entered Greece illegally in November 2004 with her son (a minor), she was arrested and issued with an administrative removal order, temporarily suspended on humanitarian grounds. The appellant, subsequently, attempted to leave Greece in January 2005 using fraudulent travel documents. She was re-arrested and a new administrative removal order was issued against her.

In January 2006, the appellant sought asylum stating that she had left the country of her habitual residence in order to ensure better living conditions for one of her four children, who had travelled with her. Her spouse and the remaining 3 children had remained in Syria. Her final destination was Sweden, where she knew people who could offer her help. She also stated that she faced no issues in Damascus and that, if needed, she could return back.

The Committee that heard the case in the Hellenic Council of State sought clarifications from the High Commissioner of the United Nations and the Ministry of External Affairs on whether Syria would agree to take back the appellant and her son and what their status would be.

In March 2007, the Committee, taking into account the guidelines issued by the High Commissioner of the UN in October 2002 with regards to the applicability of the Geneva Convention, advised that the appellant is registered with UNRWA in Syria and as such, is not entitled to the protection under the Article 1A of the Geneva Convention. This is due to the fact that the Palestinians residing in Syria enjoy all the rights and entitlements of the Syrian citizens, other than the right to vote, the right to be elected, and the citizenship right. 

Decision & Reasoning: 

According to Article 1A of the Geneva Convention, a refugee is any person who  “owing to well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality and is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country; or who, not having a nationality and being outside the country of his former habitual residence as a result of such events, is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to return to it.”

And according to the paragraph D of the same Article 1 “This Convention shall not apply to persons who are at present receiving from organs or agencies of the United Nations other than the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees protection or assistance. When such protection or assistance has ceased for any reason, without the position of such persons being definitively settled in accordance with the relevant resolutions adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations, these persons shall ipso facto be entitled to the benefits of this Convention.”

In accordance with the above provisions, The Geneva Convention 1951 does not apply to persons who are receiving protection or assistance from organs or agencies of the United Nations, in this case UNRWA. Even though, the Article 1D provides that any cessation of such protection or assistance, without the position of such persons being definitively settled in accordance with the relevant resolutions adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations, shall make these persons ipso facto entitled to the benefits of the Convention in question, when the cessation is caused by the departure of that person from the territory where the Organisation is active (UNRWA in this case), it is up to the competent national authorities to ascertain, on an individual basis, whether the departure of the person concerned may be justified by reasons beyond his control and independent of his volition, such as serious concerns over personal safety and the Organisation’s inability to secure living conditions in line with its mission, or whether the departure is purely due to personal reasons.

In this particular case, as transpired from the statements of the appellant and the opinions of the competent Committee, the reason for departure of the appellant and her child (both registered with UNRWA) from the area where UNRWA operates, was not attributed to fear of personal persecution or lack of safe and dignified living conditions in the area, rather than to her personal desire to secure better living conditions. The Advisory Committee has also received confirmation, pursuant to correspondence and statements from the appellant herself, that there are no obstacles for her return to Syria.

The Committee has, therefore, ruled that there was no legal basis for the appellant and her child to qualify for recognition as refugees under the Article 1A of the Geneva Convention. 

Outcome: 

Appeal denied.

Observations/Comments: 

This case summary was written by Angeliki Kotsidou, a LPC student at BPP University. 

The summary was proof read by Stefania Kokkosi.

Other sources cited: