A.S. v. Switzerland (no. 39350/13): Dublin III removal to Italy for PTSD sufferer

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

In this judgment, the ECtHR held that there was no violation of Article 3 or 8 to remove an asylum applicant who suffered from severe post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and had family in Switzerland, to Italy.
A.S. is a Syrian national, who claimed asylum in Switzerland after travelling through Italy. His claim was rejected by the Swiss Federal Office of Migration in May 2013 on the basis that the Italian authorities, who had already accepted a ‘take back’ request, were responsible for processing his application under the Dublin III Regulation. His appeal against this decision was dismissed by the Federal Administrative Court.
The applicant suffered from PTSD and back pain as a result of persecution in Syria, and was receiving treatment for this in Switzerland. He had two sisters legally resident in Switzerland, who he relied on for emotional support to overcome his trauma. He argued that he belonged to a particularly vulnerable group in need of special protection, and that due to systemic deficiencies in the Italian reception system, he would not be provided with adequate accommodation or medical treatment to meet his needs. This would put him at increased risk of his condition deteriorating and him contemplating suicide, especially without his sisters’ support. His level of dependence on his sisters, above the normal emotional ties, brought their relationship within the scope of family life. As such, he alleged that his removal to Italy would violate Articles 3 and 8 ECHR. 
The Court referred to its previous case law relating to Article 3 considerations when expelling seriously ill persons in Bensaid v the United KingdomD v the United Kingdom and N v the United Kingdom noting that there was a high threshold and a case would have to disclose ‘very exceptional circumstances’ to meet the minimum level of severity. The Court cited its judgment in Tarakhel, in finding that it was possible that a significant number of asylum seekers in Italy would have inadequate accommodation due to reception conditions there. Turning to the applicant’s circumstances, it found that his present condition was not critical and that he could receive appropriate psychological and medical treatment in Italy. His case did not therefore meet the high threshold of Article 3 and there was no real risk of him suffering treatment contrary to this provision on removal to Italy.

With regard to Article 8, the Court found that the family life enjoyed by the applicant while his asylum claim was being processed and his immigration status was precarious, raised no obligation to confer a right of residence. The Swiss authorities had struck a fair balance between respecting the applicant’s rights and its own interest in controlling immigration. Accordingly, the Court concluded, bearing in mind the margin of appreciation given to States in immigration matters, that there would also be no violation of Article 8 to remove the applicant to Italy. 

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Dublin Transfer
Family unity (right to)
Inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment
Medical Reports/Medico-legal Reports
Vulnerable person