Croatian civil society organisations Are You Syrious and Centre for Peace Studies have published a report raising concerns over the increasing trend of rejection of asylum applications by the Croatian Asylum Department following negative security recommendations by the Security Intelligence Agency (SOA).
Under Croatian law, the SOA issues an unmotivated opinion on the security situation of asylum seekers, which is binding upon the Asylum Department. If the opinion finds there to be a ‘security obstacle’ to granting international protection, the Asylum Department is obliged to reject the asylum application even if the claim is well-founded, without having access to the reasoning of the SOA.
The SOA has become more actively involved in asylum proceedings throughout 2016, leading to several decisions being rejected on security grounds without further motivation, as reported by ECRE in its fact-finding visit. Since the beginning of 2017, as many as 30 people, mainly from Iraq and Syria, have had their claims rejected on the basis of negative security recommendations. Many of them had been returned to Croatia from other countries under the Dublin Regulation.
Appealing such a decision before the Croatian Administrative Court is highly difficult due to the absence of key procedural guarantees such as access to the relevant files by the asylum seeker and their legal representative. In previous litigation concerning the use of classified SOA recommendations to justify detention of asylum seekers, the Administrative Court found no basis for imposing detention in the cases concerned.
Similar issues are raised in the context of return cases in Poland. In a recent case, the Supreme Administrative Court found that a return decision based on classified security intelligence was lawful, thus raising questions around the respect of the right to an effective remedy.
For more information, see:
Are You Syrious and Centre for Peace Studies, Report on arbitrary and unlawful practices by the Ministry of Interior and the Security and Intelligence Agency of the Republic of Croatia related to (non)approval of international protection or status of foreigners in Croatia, April 2017.
AIDA, Country Report Croatia, 2016 Update, March 2017.
ECRE, Balkan route reversed: The return of asylum seekers to Croatia under the Dublin system, December 2016.