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Country of Decision : Austria
Court Name : AT: Supreme Administrative Court [Verwaltungsgerichtshof - VwGH]
Date of decision : 29/06/2020
Type : Judgment
Case Number/Citation/ Document Symbol : Ro 2019/01/0014

Federal Office for Migration and Asylum v Applicant (Afghanistan)

AT: The Supreme Administrative Court rules on the criteria for ending refugee protection due to changed circumstances in the country of origin.

The applicant, Afghan national, was granted refugee status by decision of 10 July 2015 on grounds related to his conversion to Christianity, (Jehovah Witnesses), and risk of persecution upon return to his country of origin by state and private actors. By decision of the Federal Office for Migration and Asylum of July 2019, the refugee protection was ended pursuant to Paragraph 7 (1) (1) of the 2005 Asylum Act. A return order was issued, with a voluntary period for departure to Afghanistan being set up. The reason for ending refugee status was the fact that the applicant has recently married his wife in Iran under Islamic law, no longer being converted to Jehovah Witnesses, and consequently there is no longer a risk upon return to Afghanistan. The decision was contested, and the Administrative Court found that there was no significant change in the objective circumstances in the country of origin situation and that refugee status can not be withdrawn for subjective reasons. The Federal Administrative Office for Migration and Asylum appealed the Administrative Court decision.

The Supreme Administrative Court admitted the appeal and ruled that a change of circumstances does not necessarily have to refer only to an objective change in the situation in the country of origin, but also includes a significant and not merely temporary change in personal circumstances of the individual refugee. The Supreme Administrative Court reiterated the jurisprudence of the CJEU on the cessation grounds and referred also the EASO, Judicial Analysis, Ending International Protection, Article 11, 14, 16 and 19 of the Qualification Directive (Directive 2011/95/EU), p. 35).

The CJEU has underlined in the case C-720/17, Bilali, 23 May 2019 (see paragraphs 44, 49 and 53) that ‘it would be contrary to the general scheme and objectives of Directive 2011/95 to grant the legal status provided for in that directive to third-country nationals who are in situations which have no connection with the purpose of international. Moreover, in order to change the circumstances under Article 16 of the Qualification Directive, the CJEU held that: ‘While such a change generally results from a change in the factual circumstances in the third country and the elimination of the causes which led to the grant of subsidiary protection status, Article 16 of Directive 2011/95 does not expressly provide that its scope is limited to such a situation and, second, a change in the level of knowledge of the host Member State with regard to the personal situation of the person concerned cannot, in the same way, result in the initial fear that the latter will suffer serious harm within the meaning of Article 15.’ With regard to Article 11 (1) (e) of the Qualification Directive , the CJEU has also held that ‘such cessation implies that the change in circumstances has eliminated the causes which led to recognition as a refugee’ in case CJEU, Abdulla, C-175/08, 2 March 2010, paragraph 69).

Afghanistan; Cessation of protection; EASO Professional Development Series; Refugee Protection; Religion/ Religious Groups ;

Revised Qualification Directive (Directive 2011/95/EU on standards for the qualification of third-country nationals or stateless persons as BIP for a uniform status for refugees or for persons eligible for subsidiary protection- recast)/or QD 2004/83/EC;

EASO Courts and Tribunals Network

Austria, Supreme Administrative Court [Verwaltungsgerichtshof - VwGH], Federal Office for Migration and Asylum v Applicant (Afghanistan), Ro 2019/01/0014, 29 June 2020. Link redirects to the English summary in the EASO Case Law Database.