ECtHR: security-based expulsion of Syrian national from Bulgaria violates Article 8 and 13 ECHR

Tuesday, October 6, 2020

On 6 October 2020, the European Court of Human Rights ruled on a case regarding an expulsion from Bulgaria based on national security grounds. 

Mr. Bou Hassoun, a Syrian national, had arrived in Bulgaria in 2009 and was granted asylum status in 2013. In 2010, he started a relationship with G.M., a Bulgarian national, and their son was born in 2014. However, on 22 October 2015 the head of the National Security Service issued an immediately enforceable order for the applicant’s expulsion, and a 5-year entry ban, because he potentially posed a ‘serious threat to national security’.  The order lacked factual reasons because the facts were deemed classified. 
Subsequently, Mr. Hassoun’s application for judicial review to the Supreme Administrative Court was dismissed and the order was considered lawful. The applicant was not given access to the classified reasons for his expulsion and the judge had not taken arguments regarding his family and private life into consideration. Finally, the Bulgarian government alleged that Mr. Hassoun had signed a voluntary return form, indicating Turkey as a safe third country of return, after which he was taken to a border checkpoint with the assistance of the Bulgarian authorities, and, ultimately, expelled to Turkey.

The ECtHR first considered that Bulgaria had interfered with the applicant’s right to respect for his family life, under Article 8 ECHR, because of the implementation of an unlawful expulsion order. Referring to C.G. and Others v. Bulgaria and Kaushal and Others v. Bulgaria, it confirmed that this interference was not ‘in accordance with the law’, as the application did not enjoy a minimum degree of protection against arbitrariness: the expulsion order was the result of a purely internal assessment by the National Security Service and the applicant’s application for judicial review was rejected without any meaningful independent scrutiny of the allegations regarding the executive’s lack of reasons for expulsion.

Regarding Article 13, the ECtHR concluded that the judicial review proceedings did not provide the applicant with an effective domestic remedy. It underlined that Bulgarian domestic courts had already been condemned for not closely scrutinizing allegations regarding the executive’s lack of reasons for expulsion and concluded that this was also applicable to Mr. Hassoun’s case. It noted that the Supreme Administrative Court had not carried out a proper examination of the national security risk, had not paid attention to questions of proportionality nor addressed the interference with his right to respect for family and private life. Finally, it highlighted that the applicant’s lawyer was not presented with the documents on which the expulsion was based and that he was neither made aware of the specific facts concerning the allegations against his client. 

In conclusion, the ECtHR held that there had been a violation of Article 8 ECHR and Article 13, taken in conjunction with Article 8.

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.                               

Effective remedy (right to)
Family unity (right to)