The Netherlands: Inadmissibility of asylum applications by Syrian nationals enjoying refugee status in Bulgaria insufficiently justified

Monday, October 19, 2020

On 19 October 2020, the Court of The Hague ruled that the State Secretary for Justice and Security had insufficiently motivated the inadmissibility of the applications of four Syrian nationals, who had made an asylum application in the Netherlands while already enjoying refugee status in Bulgaria. 
The applicants were granted refugee status in Bulgaria in August 2017. Subsequently, they moved to Germany, where their asylum applications were declared inadmissible and they were transferred back to Bulgaria. In June 2020, they left to the Netherlands, where they unsuccessfully applied for a temporary asylum residence permit. The State Secretary declared their applications inadmissible because of their refugee status in Bulgaria.  

The State Secretary based his decision on references to previous case-law and the general legislative framework in Bulgaria. He underlined, inter alia, that the principle of mutual trust allowed him to consider that the situation for refugees in Bulgaria is poor, but a return to Bulgaria would not expose the applicants to a treatment violating Article 3 ECHR. Furthermore, he estimated that the applicants had made insufficient efforts to enforce their rights, such as regarding housing and education, and concluded that the legal situation in Bulgaria for refugees is comparable to the one of Bulgarian citizens.
The Court rejected this assessment, highlighting that the State Secretary must substantively address the arguments of the applicants, thereby carefully considering whether the principle of mutual trust can be invoked in individual cases. The Court extensively considered the situation for refugees in Bulgaria, taking into account, inter alia, the lack of access to housing and identity documents, and the lack of Bulgarian integration facilities. Indeed, with reference to Ibrahim and ET and NT, the Court orders the Dutch State Secretary to obtain more information and assess whether the applicants, in Bulgaria, would not risk to be exposed to a situation that violates Article 3 ECHR and Article 4 of the Charter. The lack of access to housing that may make the applicants entirely reliant on the Bulgarian authorities, who seem to be ‘officially indifferent’ to their needs, should be taken into account.
Therefore, the Court annuls the decisions and orders the State Secretary to collect information from the Bulgarian authorities and make a new assessment based on general information, the information provided by the applicants, the Bulgarian authorities, and the Court’s decision. 
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.                               

Inadmissible application
Inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment
Obligation to give reasons