Netherlands – Court of The Hague (unpublished), 24 August 2020

Country of Decision:
Country of Applicant:
Date of Decision:
24-08-2020
Court Name:
Court of The Hague
National / Other Legislative Provisions:
Article 29(1) Aliens Law (Vreemdelingenwet)
Article 31(1) Aliens Law (Vreemdelingenwet)
Paragraph C.2/3.2 Aliens Circular (Vreemdelingencirculaire)
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Headnote: 

A stateless person from Palestine who was registered by UNRWA  and received its assistance shall not be excluded from refugee status when it is established that his personal safety in Palestine is at serious risk and it is impossible for UNRWA to guarantee that the living conditions, which has forced the individual to leave Palestine, are compatible with its mission.

From the available evidence, the Court concludes that UNRWA is unable to provide protection and assistance to Palestinian refugees in Gaza.

Facts: 

The applicant is stateless and of Palestinian origin. The State Secretary refused his application for international protection arguing that the applicant received support from the UNRWA and left Gaza on his own initiative and that therefore the exclusion ground of Article 1(D) Refugee Convention / Article 12(1) Qualification Directive applies. The applicant appeals this refusal before the Court of The Hague.

Decision & Reasoning: 

The Court first observes that the exclusion ground in Article 1(D) Refugee Convention no longer applies when the protection or assistance by the UNRWA has ceased “without the position of such persons being definitively settled in accordance with the relevant resolutions adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations”.

According to Paragraph C.2/3.2 Aliens Circular the assistance by the UNRWA has ceased “in the event of the impossibility for that body to carry out its mission” or “if the stateless Palestinian alien can no longer avail himself of the protection or assistance for a reason beyond his control and independent of his will and this circumstance forces him to leave that territory and thus prevents him from enjoying the protection or assistance granted by UNRWA.”

The Court examines the meaning and scope of the exclusion ground of Article 12(1) Qualification Directive, based on the interpretation by the CJEU in the Bolbol, El Kott and Alheto cases.

The Court then goes on to examine the specific circumstances of the applicant. The Court considers it sufficiently established that the applicant found himself in a situation of serious risk, that it was impossible for UNRWA to guarantee that the living conditions were compatible with its mission and that due to these circumstances the applicant has been forced to leave Gaza. These circumstances meet the criteria laid down by the CJEU in Alheto.

This conclusion is supported by a number of recent reports on the current situation in Gaza and the incapacity of the UNRWA to offer sufficient protection to refugees.

The Court concludes that the applicant has forcibly left Palestine and that he cannot be expected to return. Therefore, the exclusion ground of Article 12(1) Qualification Directive cannot be applied and the applicant is to be granted refugee status.

Outcome: 

Appeal granted.

Subsequent Proceedings : 

Higher appeal before the Council of State is possible.

Observations/Comments: 

The Court applies the logic and reasoning of the CJEU in Alheto

The observation by the Court that UNRWA is unable to provide protection and assistance to Palestinian refugees in Gaza may have a significant impact on the granting of international protection to persons fleeing Gaza, if this reasoning is followed in other cases and upheld by the Council of State.

This summary was written by Roel Stynen, Law student at Ghent University.

Other sources cited: 

Letter by Vluchtelingenwerk Nederland, 5 March 2020

Euro-Med Monitor, “Dead Zone: Euro-Med Monitor report documents breakdown of life in Gaza during 14 years of blockade”, 28 January 2020

World Health Organization, “Special Situation Update: occupied Palestinian territory, Gaza 12-14 November 2019”