Bulgaria: Iranian asylum applicant appeal granted on grounds of religious persecution

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

On 21 May 2019, the Administrative Court of Sofia City granted the appeal of an asylum applicant of Iranian origin, who submitted an application on the grounds of religious persecution in Iran for her Christian beliefs.

The application for asylum was initially rejected by the State Agency for Refugees (SAR), which held that the grounds for persecution submitted by the applicant were unfounded. In particular, the authority held that her reasons for leaving Iran were of a personal and social character, stating that her flight was primarily due to a failed marriage, and that she was not persecuted because of her ethnicity or her beliefs, with the latter point underscored by the fact that she left Iran legally. The SAR found that the applicant did not face a risk of indiscriminate violence if she were to be returned to Iran.

In examining the appeal, the Administrative Court of Sofia City diverged from the decision of the SAR and found that the applicant had sufficiently proved that she was persecuted. The Court held that the applicant’s statements were consistent and plausible, and that, since her first submission, she had stated that her primary reason for leaving Iran was persecution for her Christian beliefs. In this assessment, the Court made reference to the CJEU case of Fathi, C-56/17, in which the CJEU established that all elements of an applicant’s claim do not need separate substantiation or documentary evidence if the claim is consistent and plausible (para 82).

The Court also addressed the grounds for refusal presented by the SAR that the applicant left Iran legally and that a significant period of time had lapsed between her being detained and beaten in Iran and her current asylum application. The Court held that these facts were irrelevant and found that Christians in Iran face repression from the government and have to practice in secret.   

The Court found that the applicant had sufficiently established her fear of persecution on the grounds of religion, which is a basis for granting refugee status under Article 8, paragraph 1 of the Law on Asylum and Refugees. In that regard, the decision of the SAR was annulled and the case returned to the agency. 

The applicant is represented by Valentina Nilsen, a lawyer from the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee, an ELENA Network member organization.

The EWLU would like to thank Iliana Savova of the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee and ELENA Coordinator for Bulgaria for bringing our attention to this case and for her assistance with the summary. Based on an unofficial translation by the EWLU team.

This item was reproduced with the permission of ECRE from the ELENA Weekly Legal Update. The purpose of these updates is to inform asylum lawyers and legal organizations supporting asylum seekers and refugees of recent developments in the field of asylum law. Please note that the information provided is taken from publicly available information on the internet. Every reasonable effort is made to make the content accurate and up to date at the time each item is published but no responsibility for its accuracy and correctness, or for any consequences of relying on it, is assumed by ECRE.


Credibility assessment
Persecution Grounds/Reasons