Safe third country


Country Report: Safe third country Last updated: 14/05/21


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The Federal Council is also responsible for the designation of states where there is effective protection against refoulement,[1] as safe third countries.[2] The Federal Council should periodically review these decisions.[3]

Safety criteria

The following requirements must be met:[4]

  • Ratification of and compliance with the ECHR, the Refugee Convention, the UN Convention against Torture and the UN Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
  • Political stability which guarantees the compliance with the mentioned legal standards.
  • Compliance with the principle of a state governed by the rule of law.

According to the Asylum Appeals Commission (predecessor of the Federal Administrative Court), what is relevant is the possibility to find actual protection in the third country. This is not the case if there is no access to the asylum procedure or if the third country only applies the Refugee Convention to European refugees.[5] According to the materials of the Federal Council in preparation of the mentioned provision, it is also necessary that the third country accepts the readmission of the person in question.[6]

This list includes so far all EU and EFTA member states.[7]

In a case concerning a Kurdish journalist for whom the SEM had issued an inadmissibility decision and an expulsion order to Brazil, the Federal Administrative Court recalled that, unlike third countries designated as safe by the Federal Council, the SEM must, when it comes to a return to another third country, examine in each case whether the latter offers sufficient protection against refoulement. In the present case, the Court considered that the reasoning put forward by the SEM, which concluded that there was effective protection against any refoulement in the country of origin, was insufficient.[8]

Connection criteria

According to the law, the SEM shall normally dismiss an application for asylum if the asylum seeker can return to a safe third country as described above in which he or she was previously resident. In practice, these are normally cases in which the asylum seeker already has international protection (or another type of residence permit) in an EU/EFTA-member state. If the person was there as an asylum seeker or had merely passed through, the Dublin Regulation applies, rather than the safe third country rule (all countries on the safe third country list are Dublin member states as well).

[1]    As defined in Article 5(1) AsylA.

[2]   Article 6a(2)(b) AsylA.

[3]    Article 6a(3) AsylA.

[4]  Federal Council, Bundesblatt (Federal Gazette) 2002, available (in German) at:, 6877ff.

[5]   Asylum Appeals Commission, Decisions EMARK 2000/10, 2001/14.

[6]   Federal Council, Bundesblatt (Federal Gazette) 2002, 6884.

[7]SEM, ‘Bezeichnung aller EU- und EFTA-Staaten als sichere Drittstaaten’, 14 December 2007, available (in German) at:

[8]   Federal Administrative Court, Decision D-635/2018, 8 February 2018.

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