Greece: Further interpretation of the safe third country concept

The Greek Appeals Committees have recently given further interpretation to the “safe third country” concept in appeals against inadmissibility decisions, in the aftermath of two rulings of the Council of State on the application of the concept in the case of Turkey. In these judgments, the Council of State had affirmed that a “sufficient connection” between an asylum seeker and a third country, which would make it reasonable for him or her to relocate there, may be inferred from transit in conjunction with conditions such as the length of stay in a country or the country’s proximity to the country of origin.

Two decisions from Appeals Committees have elaborated on the “sufficient connection” criterion:

9th Appeals Committee, Decision 15602/2017

In a case concerning a Syrian man who had stayed only eight days in Turkey, the Appeals Committee found that the geographical proximity of a country to the country of origin cannot in itself justify a sufficient connection, in the absence of conditions such as a reasonable period of stay of the existence of a supporting network. To rule the contrary – that “transit” may solely be accompanied by proximity to the country of origin – would in fact result in asylum applications not being examined on an individualised basis, as expressly required by law, but in all nationals of a country with such a “neighbouring third country” being treated in the same manner. Since the applicant’s stay in Turkey was very short, not exceeding eight days, and no supporting friendly network existed, the Committee held that there was no sufficient connection with Turkey based on which it would be reasonable for the applicant to relocate there.

11th Appeals Committee, Decision 14011/2017

In a case concerning a Syrian family with four children, the Appeals Committee also rejected the existence of a sufficient connection on the ground that the applicants had stayed in Turkey for 15 days and had no possibility of accessing a supporting network. The Committee stressed that a sufficient connection may be deduced from the existence of family or community ties, prior residence, visits for longer periods, studies or language and cultural bonds, but not solely from transit. In its conclusion, the Committee referenced the interpretation of the concept by UNHCR, which the Council of State had not taken into account as authority.

 

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