Safe third country


Country Report: Safe third country Last updated: 30/11/20


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An asylum application can be declared inadmissible in case a third country is regarded a safe third country for the asylum seeker.[1] There is no list of safe third countries. The concept is applied on a case by case basis.


Safety criteria


Article 3.106a(1) of the Aliens Decree provides the criteria for a country to be considered a safe third country. This is an implementation of Article 38 of the Asylum Procedures Directive. Article 3.37e of the Aliens Regulation provides that the Secretary of State's assessment as to whether a third country can be considered to be safe should be based on a number of sources of information, specifically from EASO, UNHCR, the Council of Europe and other relevant / authoritative / reputable organisations. In four cases concerning Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates and Russia, the Council of State ruled that the State Secretary must rely on country of origin information which must be transparent and also applicable to the individual asylum seeker’s case.[2] It also noted that a country qualifies as a safe third country when the applicant is admitted in that country.


The law does not expressly require the third country to have ratified the Refugee Convention without limitation. The Council of State recently found that Article 38 of the recast Asylum Procedures Directive does not require the third country to have ratified the Refugee Convention to be considered a safe third country. Nevertheless, the third country must abide by the principle of non-refoulement. The cases concerned the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait.[3]


In March 2018, the IND had announced in a letter to a few lawyers that it would publish thematic official messages (thematisch ambtsbericht) regarding the safety of the following countries: Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Egypt. These official messages are prepared by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and are qualified – according to Dutch law – as expert' reports.
However, in October 2018, the IND announced that it was refraining from publishing the reports on Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar. The reasons for this sudden change are unknown. In December 2018, the IND has published a thematic official message on the topic of Syrian nationals in Egypt.


Connection criteria


On the basis of Article 3.106a(2) of the Aliens Decree a connection (band) with the third country is required on the basis of which it would be reasonable for the asylum seeker to go to that country. This has been elaborated on in Article 3.37e(3) of the Aliens Regulation and in Paragraph C2/6.3 of the Aliens Circular. According to the IND such a connection exists where:[4]


The husband / wife or partner of the asylum seeker has the nationality of the third country;

v  First or direct family members reside in the third country, with whom the asylum seeker is still in contact; or

v  The asylum seeker has stayed in the third country.


In a recent case, the Regional Court The Hague examined the relevance of a connection (band) to the United States for an Afghan national who worked as an interpreter to the US Army and US Government in Afghanistan. The court concluded that a sufficient connection existed for the “safe third country” concept to be applicable.[5]


The Dutch Council for Refugees is not aware of cases in which mere transit through a third country was considered to be sufficient to declare the asylum request inadmissible on the basis of the concept of safe third country.


[1]             Article 30a(1)(c) Aliens Act.

[2]             Council of State, Decisions No 201704433/1, No 201703605/1, No 201609584/1, No 201606126/1, 13 December 2017.

[3]             Council of State, Decisions No 201704433/1, No 201703605/1, No 201609584/1, 13 December 2017.

[4]             Paragraph C2/6.3 Aliens Circular.

[5]             Regional Court The Hague, Decision No 17/8274, 26 June 2017.


Table of contents

  • Statistics
  • Overview of the legal framework
  • Overview of the main changes since the previous report update
  • Asylum Procedure
  • Reception Conditions
  • Detention of Asylum Seekers
  • Content of International Protection
  • ANNEX I – Transposition of the CEAS in national legislation