The concept of the serious and individual threat to life should be interpreted broadly by European authorities deciding whether to grant subsidiary protection | Photo: picture alliance/dpa/B. Roessler
The concept of the serious and individual threat to life should be interpreted broadly by European authorities deciding whether to grant subsidiary protection | Photo: picture alliance/dpa/B. Roessler

Europe's highest court has ruled that German authorities may not rely simply on numbers of casualties when deciding whether to grant subsidiary protection.

Asylum authorities in European countries should examine 'all the relevant circumstances' in the country of origin of those fleeing armed conflict before deciding whether to grant them protection, according to Europe’s highest court . 

In a case concerning two Afghan nationals, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled on Thursday (June 10) that the test Germany had used to determine the level of risk faced by the applicants was too narrow. The two men from the province of Nangarhar had applied for protection but were rejected by German authorities because the death toll in their region was too low.

Many asylum seekers in Germany who are not entitled to protection under asylum and refugee law are granted so-called subsidiary protection instead. This generally means that they are considered to be at risk of torture, the death penalty or a serious individual threat to life and limb "as a result of wilful intent" or integrity "due to indiscriminate violence in the context of […] armed conflict."

Assessment of protection needs

German authorities assess each person’s right to subsidiary protection based on the "risk of death and injury" in the region the person fled. In the past they measured the risk by calculating the ratio between the number of civilian casualties and the total population of the area. The result had to reach a minimum threshhold for the person to be eligible.

According to this week’s ruling by the court in Luxembourg, the test excluded people "genuinely in need of protection." The court also said that applying a minimum threshhold, as Germany had done, might lead people seeking international protection to travel to other member states of the EU that did not use the same criterion.

The court said the concept of a "serious and individual threat to the life or person" of an applicant should be interpreted broadly to include factors such as the intensity of armed confrontations and the duration of the conflict as well as potentially intentional attacks against civilians.

‘Groundbreaking’ ruling

The human rights organization Pro Asyl welcomed the ECJ ruling as groundbreaking, as it means that Afghan nationals from some provinces may be more likely to be granted protection in the future. "The previous case law in Germany never did justice to the situation in Afghanistan. Now, since the ECJ ruling, it will, especially given the worsening security situation in the Hindu Kush," said Pro Asyl legal expert, Peter von Auer.

With dpa

 

More articles

Webpack App