From file: Refugees arriving in Salerno, Italy | Photo: M. Amoruso/Pacific Press/picture-alliance
From file: Refugees arriving in Salerno, Italy | Photo: M. Amoruso/Pacific Press/picture-alliance

A German court has decided that two African asylum seekers may not be returned to Italy where they had first sought protection, due to the hardship they would face there. It's not the first time that German courts have ruled against such forced returns within Europe.

The Higher Administrative Court (OVG) of the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) has prohibited the forced returns of two asylum seekers from Somalia and Mali to Italy out of concern over the prevailing living conditions they'd have to endure in Italy.

There was a "serious danger" that the two men, one Somali and one Malian, would not be able to meet their "fundamental needs" like accommodation and food, the court in the city of Münster said on Thursday (July 29).

According to the judges, the Somali had already been recognized as a refugee in Italy. The Malian had applied for asylum in Italy before traveling onwards to Germany.

As a result, Germany's Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF) had rejected both their asylum applications as inadmissable and ordered a return to Italy. The men then filed two separate claims against the BAMF decision.

'Inhumane and humiliating treatment'

In its ruling, the court cited the prevailing Italian system for refugees, which stipulates that accommodation and provision is only granted to particularly vulnerable people like the sick or families with children in reception facilities.

No access to accommodation and work for a longer period of time, however, would mean that the two men would end up in a situation of extreme material hardship, independent of their will and their personal choices, the court said.

As a result, the two men would face "the serious danger of inhumane and humiliating treatment" in a member state of the European Union, the court argued further. The ruling could not be appealed, the judges said. However, the authorities can file a complaint against this decision at Germany's federal administrative court.

Similar decisions

This week's ruling is not the first time a German court prevented asylum seekers from being forcibly returned to another EU country.

In April, a court in the state of Lower Saxony ruled that two sisters from Syria who received protection status in Greece cannot be deported from Germany. The court said the human rights of the women would be put at risk if they were returned to Greece.

In a similar case, a court in the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) in January found that two refugees threatened with deportation to Greece would be at serious risk of inhumane and degrading treatment if they were to be sent back.

A slightly different case took place back in 2019, when a Munich court decided that Germany must take back a refugee who was stopped on the border and deported to Greece. The court argued that proper procedure under German law had not been followed.

With AFP, KNA, epd


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