Court upholds decision to transfer woman seeking international protection to Belgium

The Court of Appeal has upheld a decision that an application for international protection by a Congolese woman who has been in Ireland for over three years should be considered by the Belgian authorities
Court upholds decision to transfer woman seeking international protection to Belgium

Aodhan O'Faolain

The Court of Appeal has upheld a decision that an application for international protection by a Congolese woman who has been in Ireland for over three years should be considered by the Belgian authorities.

The woman who sought asylum in Ireland after arriving here on a flight from Brussels had opposed a decision that she transferred back to Belgium, where her claim for asylum will be considered.

The EU's system, called the Dublin Regulations, allows one EU country to require another to accept responsibility for an asylum claim where certain conditions apply.

These conditions include that the person is shown to have previously entered that other EU country or made a claim there.

The woman claims that if transferred, she would be subject to inhuman and degrading treatment due to systemic failures in the asylum procedures and in the reception conditions for asylum applicants In Belgium.

The woman, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, appealed the decision to transfer her to the Irish International Protection Office, International Protection Appeals Tribunal, and the Minister for Justice.

Transfer

They had all rejected the woman's claims against the Belgium system and did not overturn her bid to halt the transfer.

The Minister, citing EU's regulations and the agreements governing applications for asylum, deemed that the woman's bid for international protection should be handled by the Belgian authorities.

The woman, who has been in Ireland for three years, first entered the EU through Brussels on a Belgian visa. She had been in Belgium for a couple of days before arriving in Ireland, where she first applied for protection.

She claims that the Minister should use her discretion, and cancel the proposed transfer, allowing the woman to seek International Protection in Ireland.

The woman, from the Democratic Republic of Congo, pleaded that she should be allowed to remain here on humanitarian grounds, because she had formed relationships during her time in Ireland and due to the risks posed by Covid-19.

The Minister refused her application and said there were no reasons to indicate that the transfer to Belgium would put the woman at risk, nor would the move breach any of her rights, including her rights under the European Convention on Human Rights.

In High Court judicial review proceedings, the woman sought to quash the Minister's refusal to halt the transfer. In his judgement last November Mr Justice Cian Ferriter dismissed her action after holding the Minister had properly considered the woman's application and gave full reasons why the transfer had not been set aside.

The matter was appealed to the Court of Appeal, comprised of Mr Justice John Edwards, Ms Justice Mary Faherty and Mr Justice Maurice Collins, which dismissed the appeal.

Giving the COA's decision Mr Justice Collins said the case raised "difficult arguments" about the implementation and operation of EU regulations and systems concerning applications for international protection.

However, the COA was satisfied that the Minister was entitled to hold that no such exceptional circumstances existed to allow the woman to remain in Ireland.

The Minister was further entitled to hold that the proposed transfer did not breach any of the woman's rights, including her rights under the European Convention of Human Rights, the COA added.

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