EU States Can’t Transfer Asylum Seekers Facing Inhuman Treatment

The European Union’s highest court said EU countries can’t transfer an asylum seeker to another nation “where he risks being subjected to inhuman treatment.”

In two cases before the EU court, asylum seekers had entered Greece and were arrested for illegal entry before continuing toward the U.K. or Ireland. Under EU laws, the country of first entrance has responsibility for those entering, unless the person’s human rights are at risk there. Tribunals in Ireland and England sought the court’s guidance on EU rules and at what point a country becomes responsible for a refugee entering via another EU nation.

National courts or officials in the 27-nation region can’t transfer an asylum seeker to the country where they first arrived if they are aware of “systemic deficiencies in the asylum procedure and in the reception conditions” that would result in “a real risk of being subjected to inhuman or degrading treatment,” the EU Court of Justice in Luxembourg ruled today.

Illegal immigration through Greece has swelled in recent years, as people fleeing countries including Iraq and Afghanistan seek entry to the EU over Greece’s borders. Citizen Protection Minister Christos Papoutsis appealed for assistance from the EU last year to stem the wave and said one option was to build a fence along the Turkish border.

The cases are: C-411/10, NS v Secretary of State for the Home Department, M. E. and others v C-493/10, Refugee Applications Commissioner, Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform.

To contact the reporter on this story: Stephanie Bodoni in Luxembourg at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Anthony Aarons at

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