Sweden - Migration Court of Appeal, 20 August 2015, UM 3266-14

Country of Decision:
Country of Applicant:
Date of Decision:
20-08-2015
Citation:
Decision of 20.08.2015 – UM 3266-14
Court Name:
Migration Court of Appeal
National / Other Legislative Provisions:
Sweden - Ch. 5 Cl. 1 Aliens Act (2005:716)
Sweden - Ch. 5 Cl. 1b Aliens Act (2005:716)
Sweden - Ch. 8 Cl. 20 Aliens Act (2005:716)
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Headnote: 

An Applicant with Syrian citizenship applied for asylum in Sweden. The Migration Court of Appeal found that (i) Armenia was considered a safe third country, and (ii) that the Applicant had such a connection to Armenia that it was reasonable for the Applicant to go there, given that the Applicant’s mother was from Armenia, Armenian was the Applicant’s native language, the Applicant was born and spent his first years in Armenia, and the Applicant had voluntarily returned to Armenia as an adult to study. The Applicant’s asylum application was rejected.

Facts: 

The applicant (the “Applicant”) arrived in Sweden on 30 August 2013 and applied for asylum the same day, on the basis of the general situation in Syria, the risk for the Applicant to be called in as a reservist and be sent to a war zone, as well reprisals from Syrian authorities as the Applicant had departed from military service and left Syria illegally.

During the Swedish Migration Agency’s (the “Migration Agency”) investigation it was revealed that the Applicant had a connection with Armenia, as Armenian was the Applicant’s native language, the Applicant was born in a territory now  part of Armenia, but that he had lived in Syria from the age of two or three, with the exception for the years 1988-1995 when the Applicant returned to Armenia to study to become a doctor.

The Migration Agency rejected the asylum application applying Ch. 5 Cl. 1 b, first paragraph, third item of the Swedish Aliens Act (2005:716) (the “Aliens Act”) and ordered the Applicant to be deported from Sweden, arguing that:

      (i)            there was no reason to believe that the Applicant in Armenia would be risking a treatment that would be a ground for protection, or that Armenia would hand over the Applicant to another country where the Applicant would risk such treatment;

    (ii)            there was a simplified application process for ethnic Armenians who wanted to apply for Armenian citizenship;

   (iii)            there should be no hindrance for the Applicant to apply for and be granted Armenian citizenship;

  (iv)            in conclusion, the Applicant’s connection to Armenia was stronger than the Applicant’s connection to Sweden and the connection was such that it was reasonable for the Applicant to travel to Armenia.

The Applicant appealed to the Administrative court in Stockholm (the “Migration Court”). Based on the country specific information as outlined in the Migration Agency’s decision, as well as what had otherwise been revealed during the handling of the case, the Migration Court found that Armenia fulfilled the criteria for a safe third country and that the Applicant’s connection to Armenia was strong enough for it to be reasonable for the Applicant to travel there.

The Applicant appealed to the Administrative Court of Appeal (the “Court of Appeal”) claiming that the Court of Appeal should overturn the Migration Agency’s decision and the Applicant’s application be referred back to the Migration Agency for assessment, arguing that:

        (i)            The Applicant was a Syrian citizen and had been living in Syria during the larger part of his life. The Applicant was more fluent in Arabic than in Armenian, and had little knowledge of Armenian customs. The Applicant had never been an Armenian citizen and had no friends or family left in Armenia. Furthermore, the Applicant did not have any documentation showing that the Applicant was an ethnic Armenian and therefore entitled to the simplified citizens application process;

      (ii)            When considering the circumstances that should form the basis for assessing whether an applicant had a connection with another country, one should seek guidance in the application of Ch. 8 Cl. 20 of the Aliens Act and as for that provision the Court of Appeal had, in earlier statements, found that neither ethnicity nor native language could alone establish connection with a third country (MIG 2011:5). In the same statement the Court of Appeal also found that the fact that an applicant was eligible for applying for an Armenian citizenship through the simplified application process was not enough to establish a connection with Armenia;

     (iii)            The Applicant had strong social bonds with Sweden as the Applicant’s brother and his family were living there.

The Migration Agency claimed that the appeal should be dismissed, arguing that:

      (i)            Guidance for how to establish whether the Applicant had such connection to Armenia that it was reasonable for the Applicant to travel there could be found in the principle regarding internal escape, i.e. that the applicant had a right and an opportunity to find work, and the applicant would not face human rights violations. Due to the country specific information available and the readmission agreement between the EU and Armenia, there was nothing indicating that the Applicant would not be granted leave to remain or citizenship in Armenia. Furthermore, the Applicant spoke Armenian as his native language and was a trained doctor, and could therefore make a living in Armenia. Also, there was nothing that indicated that the Applicant would face human rights violations;

    (ii)            The Applicant had lived and studied in Armenia for several years of his adult life;

   (iii)            given that the Applicant’s mother was Armenian it was unlikely that the Applicant could not get hold of a birth certificate or other documentation evidencing his Armenian ethnicity.

The Applicant should therefore be considered to have such connection to Armenia that it was reasonable for him to travel there. The fact that his brother had been granted leave to remain in Sweden did not change that assessment.

Decision & Reasoning: 

The Court of Appeal initially noted that the main principle was that an asylum application is to be handled in the state where the application was submitted. Exceptions can be made when the principle of safe third country is applicable. The principle of safe third country can be applied to deport an applicant to a country provided that the applicant does not risk being subjected to acts of persecution, the death penalty, corporal punishment, torture or other inhuman treatment in that country and does not risk being sent on to another country where the applicant would not be granted the same protection.

Furthermore, the Court of Appeal noted that it is up to the Migration Agency to make a plausible case that all of the requirements for applying Ch. 5 Cl. 1b, first paragraph third item, the Aliens Act, were fulfilled. As for the first criterion, the Court of Appeal agreed with the Migration Agency’s assessment that Armenia qualified as a safe third country.

Regarding the second requirement, if the Applicant had such a connection to Armenia that it would be reasonable for him to travel there, the Court of Appeal noted that neither Ch. 8 Cl. 20 the Aliens Act or the principle of internal escape provided guidance, as both of the provisions address significantly different situations than the one at hand.

The Court of Appeal noted that Ch. 5 Cl. 1b, first paragraph third item, the Aliens Act must be seen as a separate system based on art. 25.2(c) and art. 27 of the Asylum Procedures Directive (2005/85/EC) and it is in that context that the assessment of the Applicant’s connection to Armenia should be made.

In light of the Migration Agency’s investigation, the Court of Appeal found that the Applicant had such connection to Armenia that it was reasonable for him to travel there. The Migration Agency therefore had grounds for its decision to reject the Applicant’s asylum application based on Ch. 5 Cl. 1b, first paragraph third item, the Aliens Act.

Outcome: 

The Applicant’s appeal was dismissed. 

Observations/Comments: 

This case summary was written by Linklaters LLP.

The summary was proof read by Language Connect. 

Case Law Cited: 

Sweden - MIG 2011:5

Sweden - MIG 2012:09

Sweden - MIG 2007:33 II

Sweden - MIG 2008:20