Slovakia - Migration Office, 22 May 2013, R.M. v Ministry of the Interior of the Slovak Republic, 10 Sža/12/2013

Country of Decision:
Country of Applicant:
Date of Decision:
22-05-2013
Citation:
10 Sža/12/2013
Court Name:
Supreme Court of the Slovak Republic
National / Other Legislative Provisions:
Slovakia - Zákon 480/2002 Zb. o azyle a o zmene a doplnení niektorých zákonov (Act No 480/2002 on asylum and amending certain other acts) - § 8
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Headnote: 

After the case has been referred back to the Respondent, it will examine whether the Appellant only formally converted to Christianity and how he might prove that he was also putting his conversion into practice through his life and actions as a result of which his return to Iran would be excluded. In taking evidence on this question, the Respondent must cooperate with persons and bodies that might provide relevant information concerning the Appellant – for example, clergymen, Christian associations, churches and the like.

Facts: 

The Ministry of the Interior of the Slovak Republic – Migration Office rejected the Appellant’s application for asylum on the territory of the Slovak Republic and also refused to grant him subsidiary protection status. It reasoned  that after evaluating all of the facts, there was insufficient proof of a well-founded fear  of persecution on grounds of race, nationality religion political opinion or membership of a particular social group as stipulated in the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and the Asylum Act. The Respondent stated in its decision that the Appellant had twice applied for asylum, and had stated different reasons each time: 1. Failure to follow Muslim traditions during the month of Ramadan, due to which he had had problems with the religious police in Iran, 2. Allegations of an extramarital relationship, 3. Use of a false Israeli passport on his journey around Europe, for which he was sentenced to 30 years in prison in his country of origin, 4. His conversion to the Christian faith, for which he faced the threat of the death penalty in Iran. The Respondent doubted the Appellant‘s motives for converting to the Christian faith, as well as the sincerity of his conversion. It drew attention to interviews with the Appellant, where it was shown that he did not have even a basic knowledge of Christianity. The Respondent considered the Appellant to be untrustworthy.

The Regional Court in Bratislava upheld the decision insofar as it refused asylum on the territory of the Slovak Republic, but set aside the second part of the decision concerning the refusal to provide subsidiary protection and referred the case back to the Respondent on this point. In the judgment, the Regional Court in Bratislava concluded that, in view of the fact that the Respondent had failed to address the existing and established situation of the Appellant’s conversion as a Muslim to the Christian faith when evaluating the possible risks of returning the Appellant to Iran, and since such cases (conversions or apostasy) are punished, the Respondent had incorrectly assessed the situation in this part of the contested decision. It therefore set aside the decision insofar as it refused to provide subsidiary protection and referred the case back to the Respondent.

The Appellant lodged an appeal with the Supreme Court of the Slovak Republic against the decision of the Regional Court which had upheld the refusal of asylum on the territory of the Slovak Republic.

Decision & Reasoning: 

The Supreme Court, as the court of appeal, reviewed the judgment of the Regional Court, and also the proceedings that preceded it, and concluded unanimously that the Appellant’s appeal was well-founded.

According to the Supreme Court, the Respondent had concluded that the grounds of the asylum application could not be classified under any of the grounds foreseen by law as relevant for granting asylum within the meaning of Section 8 of the Asylum Act.The appeal court upheld the Appellant’s argument that his conversion to the Christian faith was proven to have taken place no later than during his stay in Slovakia – and nothing to the contrary had emerged from the Respondent’s administrative file – and was reported in the media, thus allowing the Appellant to be identified by the Iranian authorities. This was so for the reasons stated and analysed in detail in the contested decision of the Respondent which set aside the refusal by the administrative authority to grant subsidiary protection. It can thus be said that the conditions of the Appellant, as a refugee, changed after his departure from the country of origin and at present an assessment had to made as to whether he was a refugee sur place and whether it was necessary to provide him with international protection within the meaning of the international agreements and conventions by which the Slovak Republic is bound. As the Regional Court had already correctly pointed out when reviewing the refusal to provide subsidiary protection, with regard to granting asylum under Section 8(a) of the Asylum Act, it is essential first and foremost  to examine whether the Appellant meets the conditions listed in this provision.. In the contested decision – which was cited word for word by the Appeal Court in this decision – the Regional Court stated the reason thatit considered conversion to Christianity to be a sensitive question for a refugee – the Appellant came from a country where such action carries the death penalty.

For these reasons, the Appeal Court set aside the judgment of the Regional Court insofar as it upheld the part of the contested administrative authority decision refusing to grant asylum.

In the subsequent proceedings, the Respondent will have to consider whether the Appellant only formally converted to Christianity, and how he might prove that he was also putting his conversion into practice through his life and actions as a result of which his return to Iran would be excluded.

In taking evidence on this question, the Respondent must cooperate with persons and bodies that might provide relevant information concerning the Appellant – for example, clergymen, Christian associations, churches and the like.

Outcome: 

The Supreme Court amended the judgment of the Regional Court in Bratislava No 9 Saz/62/2012-64 of 28 November 2012, setting aside the Respondent‘s decision ČAS: MU-341-101/PO-Ž-2010 of 7 August 2012, and referring the case back to the Respondent.

Subsequent Proceedings : 

The case was referred back to the Migration Office of the Ministry of the Interior, and at the time of writing is still in progress.