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Syrian migrants are not always entitled to refugee status

February 21, 2017

A court in the western German city of Münster has ruled that Syrian migrants are not automatically entitled to refugee status under the Geneva Convention. The verdict followed an appeal by a 48-year-old Syrian man.

Deutschland junge Flüchtlinge - Integration
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/F. von Erichsen
Deutschland junge Flüchtlinge - Integration
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/F. von Erichsen

The Higher Administrative Court of North Rhine Westphalia (NRW) in Münster on Tuesday ruled against a Syrian man's claim for full refugee status according to the Geneva Convention.

Judges said there was no reason to assume that Syrian migrants going back to their country would be politically persecuted only because they filed an asylum application, or spent some time in Germany or because they left their home country illegally.

It would imply that President Bashar al- Assad's regime was "blind to reality" to assume that it could not perceive that most people were fleeing from war, the court said.

The judges said that recognition as a refugee involved the applicant proving that he would be persecuted because of his political views or his religion or if it were apparent that he or she faced human rights violations upon returning. They also said that there was no reason to assume that refugees going back faced torture. Besides, the threat of torture would assure the asylum applicant of subsidiary protection, the court said.

The fact that the plaintiff was a Sunni Muslim, came from a city in Syria which had been destroyed by the war and therefore suffered material damages was not sufficient to grant the man asylum, judges concluded.

The case was filed by a 48-year-old asylum seeker from Syria, who fled from his country in 2015. He was given "subsidiary protection" on account of the ongoing civil war in his country, but did not get full refugee status, which would allow him a longer visa and the option of brining his family to Germany. The "subsidiary protection" status grants a residence permit to stay in Germany for only one year and no option of immediate family reunion. The administrative court in Münster had initially repealed the decision before judges in the higher court reversed the verdict.

The judgement sends a strong signal to other courts processing similar complaints. Altogether, administrative courts in NRW are processing nearly 12,300 cases registered by Syrian migrants protesting the status accorded to them by the Federal Agency for Migration and Refugees (BAMF).

mg/wd (KNA, dpa)