From file: Migrants at the former camp for asylum seekers in Samos island, Greece | Photo: EPA/Michael Svarnias
From file: Migrants at the former camp for asylum seekers in Samos island, Greece | Photo: EPA/Michael Svarnias

If an asylum claim is 'inadmissible' it generally means it won't be considered. This is usually because the authorities believe another country is responsible for the claim.

'Simple rejection', 'manifestly unfounded', 'Dublin Regulation': These are all words that relate to refusal of an asylum claim. No matter which term is used, if your asylum claim is denied you should speak to a lawyer as soon as possible.

Credit: InfoMigrants
Credit: InfoMigrants

So what does it mean if an asylum application is dismissed by the authorities as 'inadmissible'?

Under EU law (Directive 2013/32/EU) sometimes a country is not required to examine whether a person qualifies for refugee status or subsidiary protection. Usually this is when the immigration authorities think that you travelled through a 'safe third country' on your way to the country where you are now applying for asylum.

An asylum claim might also be dismissed as inadmissible because

  • another EU country has granted you protection
  • you have refugee status or protection in another country outside of the EU and that country agrees to take you back
  • a country outside of the EU is considered a 'safe third country' for you
  • it's not the first time you have applied for asylum, but nothing has changed in your situation, i.e. you have no new material to support your claim
  • a member of your family has submitted a separate application

The five reasons listed above are the only inadmissibility grounds under EU law. Countries are not legally allowed to add their own grounds, but in reality they have sometimes tried to dismiss claims as inadmissible for reasons such as: "you did not attend a hearing after making a subsequent application and you left the reception or detention center and could not be contacted," or; "you submitted an application when you were just about to be expelled from the EU country," or; "you submitted a subsequent application only so that you would not be deported."

If you are applying for asylum in a country like Germany or France and the authorities decide that your claim is inadmissible, it usually means they will try to remove you to the first country where you arrived in Europe under the Dublin Procedure.

If you arrive in Italy and then you travel to Germany and claim asylum there, it is likely that Germany will apply the Dublin Regulation to send you back. If you have already been granted asylum in Italy, then Germany will deem that you already have protection in an EU country. Those are examples of when an application would be dismissed as inadmissible by the German authorities in these two scenarios.

Now that the UK is not in the European Union different rules apply there. You can find out about the asylum inadmissibility rules in the UK here or by visiting the site.

What is a safe third country?

The answer depends on which EU country is deciding whether an asylum claim is admissible or inadmissible. Again, countries are meant to stick to EU rules, but in effect they have been able to make up their own minds about what safe third country means.

The EU's definition of a safe third country is where a person is not at risk of serious harm or persecution and where they can request refugee status, among other conditions. Each EU country can draw up its own 'safe third country' list, but only after it has carried out a fair and thorough examination of the conditions in the countries on the list; and an asylum seeker threatened with deportation has to be able to challenge the definition of a country as 'safe' in court.

Greece decided in the middle of last year that Turkey was a safe third (non-EU) country for asylum seekers from five countries of origin: Syria, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Somalia. The vast majority of people who applied for asylum in Greece in 2021 were from those countries, so it’s no surprise that the number of inadmissibility decisions based on the safe third country principle went up (to more than 6,400 last year).

In practice, that didn’t mean that people were actually sent back to Turkey, because Turkey has not been willing to readmit anyone from Greece since March 2020. And because of this, according to EU law, Greece should not have been applying the 'safe third country' concept at all.

Also read: Greece: More asylum seekers could be sent back to Turkey under government plan

What about 'safe countries of origin'?

The authorities in the EU country where you are applying for asylum may have decided that you are from a 'safe country of origin'. This usually means that there is no armed conflict and no general risk of persecution, torture or inhumane treatment in your country. The EU has given a general definition of what makes a country of origin 'safe' but each member state makes its own list. Some don’t have a list at all.

This is a controversial concept, but in any event, coming from a safe country of origin will not lead to an inadmissibility decision. It may be a reason for considering an asylum application to be 'manifestly unfounded', in which case an accelerated procedure may apply.

The process

The authorities can make a decision on whether you are admissible or inadmissible without a 'substantive interview'. For example, if you arrive in Greece and you have come through a country that Greece considers a safe third country, you are only asked questions about that country, and not about your individual claim and your reasons for seeking asylum.

What evidence the authorities use to reach a decision on inadmissibility depends on where you are and the reason for inadmissibility. In Greece the safe third country is assessed based on an interview (as we said, not a substantive interview), whereas in the case of a 'subsequent application' the authorities will make a preliminary assessment to check if new elements have been presented but will not conduct an interview.

What if your claim is declared inadmissible?

  • Appeal

You can appeal the inadmissibility decision. You should seek legal advice and be aware that there are (sometimes short) time limits involved.

In Italy, there is generally a 30-day time limit to appeal against negative decisions. But for some inadmissibility decisions this is reduced to 15 days. In such cases, a person's right to stay and to be entitled to support such as accommodation while waiting for the appeal may be decided by a court. 

In Germany, if your application is rejected as 'unzulässig', the time limit for an appeal (Eilantrag) is just one week. There is more information about what to do in this situation here

In Greece, if your application is dismissed you have 20 days to appeal if you are in the 'regular procedure', and 10 days to appeal if you are in the border procedure on the Aegean islands.

  • Can you be detained?

You will not normally be detained as an immediate consequence of inadmissibility, but if you have already appealed and that has also been dismissed as inadmissible, you are deemed to be in an 'irregular situation' and you can be detained for the purpose of removal. This might happen even if the safe third country is refusing to take you back.

Thanks to Refugee Support Aegean and the Association for Juridical Studies on Immigration (ASGI) for help with the article.


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