The European Court of Justice has ruled that asylum seekers cannot be removed from one EU country to another if they risk being treated inhumanely in the destination country.
The ruling was made against the Home Office, who had argued that they should be allowed to assume that all EU countries protect individuals' rights.
Under a current EU law, known as the 'Dublin regulation', asylum seekers must apply for asylum in the first EU country they enter. If they leave that country and travel elsewhere, the rule says that they can be forced to return.
The case in question concerned a man who had claimed asylum in the UK after arriving in the EU through Greece. Since January removals of asylum seekers to Greece has been suspended, after the European Court of Human Rights ruled that treatment of asylum seekers by Greek authorities was inhuman and degrading.
In this latest ruling, the European Court of Justice has ruled that member states may not transfer asylum seekers if they have "substantial grounds for believing that the asylum seeker would face a real risk of being subjected to inhuman or degrading treatment".
"Ninety per cent of people coming overland into the EU come through Greece... They couldn't cope," says Sonal Ghelani, of the Islington Law Centre. "The UK Government knew there was a massive problem. Now we know that once [governments] are aware, they have to apply the EU charter of human rights."
There is a strong presumption in that other EU countries will respect the fundamental human rights of asylum seekers, so in most cases the practice of removing asylum seekers to the country of first entry will continue. It will have to be shown that there is a systemic failure in a member state, something significant for the Dublin regulation not to apply.
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