Safe country of origin
Articles 36-37 recast Asylum Procedures Directive
Under Articles 36-37 of the recast Asylum Procedures Directive, Member States may designate a country as a “safe country of origin” where its nationals are “generally and consistently” at no risk of persecution or serious harm on the basis of the law, political situation and general circumstances. This designation, done in a national list, is currently practiced in Austria, Belgium, Germany, France, Croatia, Hungary, Malta, the United Kingdom, Switzerland and Serbia, as well as other countries not covered by AIDA:
The safe country of origin concept is a ground for applying the accelerated procedure.
Safe third country
Article 38 recast Asylum Procedures Directive
The "safe third country" concept is defined in Article 38 of the recast Asylum Procedures Directive as a country which is considered to offer sufficient protection against persecution or serious harm, which respects the principle of non-refoulement, and which offers the possibility for an individual to request refugee status and receive protection in accordance with the 1951 Refugee Convention.
The safe third country concept is a ground for inadmissibility. It is incorporated in domestic law in Austria, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Germany, Spain, Greece, Croatia, Hungary, Malta, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Switzerland and Serbia. Switzerland and Germany have lists of safe third countries, which however only include countries applying the Dublin Regulation.
Level of protection: According to the European Commission, protection in accordance with the Convention may be available in a third country even where that country applied geographical limitations to the Convention. Hungary and Greece have not opposed this line of reasoning, as the former includes Turkey on its list and the latter assesses whether Turkey can be considered a “safe third country” for specific nationals despite its geographical limitation to the Convention. In Serbia, countries such as Turkey, Greece and the FYROM are considered ‘safe’ merely due to the fact that they are parties to the 1951 Geneva Convention (the fact that Turkey has opted to apply geographic limitations to its implementation of the Convention likewise is not taken into consideration) and the list has never been revised in light of well-known case law such as the ECtHR’ judgment in M.S.S. v. Belgium and Greece. This has led to many asylum applications being dismissed over the years without the Asylum Office ever having entered into the merits of the claim.
The situation in Greece in 2016 is less straightforward. The implementation of the EU-Turkey deal agreed on 18 March 2016, entailing the return of all irregular migrants entering the Greek islands to Turkey, has relied upon the ability of the Greek Asylum Service to presume Turkey as a “safe third country” with a view to dismissing the applications of those entering its territory from Turkey as inadmissible. Though Greek law does not set out a list of safe third countries, applications have been declared inadmissible at first instance on the basis that Turkey satisfies the safety criteria. On appeal, these inadmissibility decisions were deemed incompatible with the asylum acquis, as the majority of Appeals Committees found Turkey not to qualify as a “safe third country”. The composition of these Appeals Committees was modified in June 2016, therefore it remains to be seen whether the same interpretation will be followed.
Sufficient connection: The recast Asylum Procedures Directive also requires Member States to establish rules requiring a connection between a safe third country and the individual asylum seeker which would make return thereto reasonable. Austria does not consider mere transit sufficient to establish a connection. The Netherlands provides that a special connection (“zodanige band”) with the third country exists where the applicant has a spouse or partner who holds the country’s nationality, has a family member residing in the country with whom he or she is still in contact, or has stayed in that country. In the same strand, Bulgaria requires prolonged stay or residence to determine a “safe third country” and does not deem transit a sufficient connection. On the other hand, Hungary has introduced connection-related criteria in its Asylum Act and deems transit or stay as a sufficient connection in practice, even where the person was smuggled through a country and has no knowledge of that country. Serbia has not introduced rules requiring a connection, but also deems mere transit through a country sufficient for the “safe third country” concept to be applied.
First country of asylum
Article 35 recast Asylum Procedures Directive
Under Article 35 of the recast Asylum Procedures Directive, the concept of "first country of asylum" entails that an asylum seeker has obtained refugee status in a third country and may avail him or herself of this protection, or “otherwise enjoys sufficient protection in that country”. The Directive also enables Member States to take into account the criteria relating to “safe third countries”, which include the possibility for an individual to request and receive protection in accordance with the Refugee Convention.
The first country of asylum concept is also an inadmissibility ground, and is incorporated in domestic law in Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Germany, Spain, France, Greece, Croatia, Hungary, Ireland, Malta, the Netherlands, Poland, Sweden, the United Kingdom, Switzerland and Serbia.
Four countries using this concept as an inadmissibility ground (France, Croatia, Spain and Hungary) expressly require the applicant to be recognised as a refugee and to be able to benefit from that protection.