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Terrorist links sufficient to reject asylum seeker: EU Court

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Terrorist links sufficient to reject asylum seeker: EU Court

Refugees

(LUXEMBOURG) - An asylum seeker does not need personally to have committed terrorist acts for an application for asylum to the EU to be rejected, the European Court of Justice ruled on Tuesday.

The case concerns a Moroccan national, Mostafa Lounani, convicted and sentenced in Belgium for participation in activities of a terrorist group - namely the Belgian cell of the ‘Moroccan Islamic Combatant Group’ (‘the MICG’) – as a member of its leadership, criminal conspiracy, use of forged documents, and illegal residence.

That court found Mr Lounani guilty of taking part in activities of a cell providing logistical support to a terrorist movement.

Mr Lounani applied to Belgium for refugee status in 2010, claiming he feared persecution if he were returned to Morocco where he would be regarded by the Moroccan authorities as a radical Islamist and jihadist, following conviction in Belgium. That application for asylum was rejected.

The Belgian Council for asylum and immigration proceedings (CCE) agreed in 2011 Mr Lounani should be granted refugee status.

The reason was that the acts of which Mr Lounani was convicted did not constitute terrorist offences as such, is guilt being of belonging to a terrorist group, not of committing or participating in a terrorist act.

However, the EU Court notes in particular that, in Resolution 2178 (2014), the United Nations Security Council expressed its ‘grave concern over the acute and growing threat posed by foreign terrorist fighters’ and its concern with regard to the international networks established by terrorist entities enabling them to move between States fighters of all nationalities and the resources to support them.

 

Consequently, application of the ground for exclusion of refugee status laid down in the directive cannot be confined to actual perpetrators of terrorist acts, and can extend to persons who engage in activities of recruitment, organisation, transportation or equipment of individuals who travel to a State other than their States of residence or nationality for the purpose of, inter alia, the perpetration, planning or preparation of terrorist acts.

The Court has now ruled that final assessment of an application for international protection is the task of the competent national authorities, subject to review by the national courts.

Among factors to be taken into consideration, as stated by the Belgian Conseil d’État itself, that Mr Lounani was a member of the leadership of a terrorist group operating internationally registered on the United Nations list identifying individuals and entities subject to sanctions, and which has continued to be named on that list, as updated since that date. His logistical support to the activities of that group has an international dimension in so far as he was involved in the forgery of passports and assisted volunteers who wanted to travel to Iraq. In the opinion of the Court, such acts can justify exclusion from refugee status.

Further, the fact that Mr Lounani was convicted of participation in the activities of a terrorist group and that that conviction has become final is, in the context of the individual assessment that must be undertaken by the competent authority, of particular importance.

Judgment in Case C-573/14 - Commissaire général aux réfugiés et aux apatrides v Mostafa Lounani


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