WSJ: Court Ruling Could Lead Europe To Allow More Refugees

By Charles Forelle
        BRUSSELS (Dow Jones)–Refugees seeking asylum in the European Union don't have to demonstrate they are specifically targeted for harm if there is widespread and indiscriminate violence in their homeland, Europe's highest court ruled Tuesday, considering the case of two Iraqi nationals who had fled the war in their country. The case could lead Europe to admit more asylum-seekers – a touchy subject on a continent that prides itself on broad human-rights protection but often struggles to integrate immigrants and is struggling with growing unemployment.
        Dutch authorities, who referred the legal question of how to interpret an EU asylum directive to the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg, said dozens of similar cases were pending. Seven other EU countries weighed in with legal briefs.
        The case before the Court of Justice concerned an Iraqi couple, Meki and Noor Elgafaji, who fled Iraq in 2006. Elgafaji had worked for a British security contractor that guarded convoys traveling between the Baghdad airport and the Green Zone.
        The Elgafajis left, they said, after Elgafaji's uncle – also employed by the same security firm – was killed in a terrorist attack, and a note saying ”death to collaborators” was affixed to the door of their home.
        They went to the Netherlands, where they had family, but the Dutch immigration ministry said they hadn't adequately demonstrated that they were individually threatened and denied their application for residence permits.
        A district court overruled the ministry, but an appeals court said the relevant European law was confusing and asked the Court of Justice for an interpretation.
        In its ruling, the court said an asylum applicant need not ”adduce evidence that he is specifically targeted by reason of factors particular to his personal circumstance.”
        Instead, a threat grave enough to justify asylum ”can exceptionally be considered to be established” if indiscriminate violence in a war zone is great enough that a civilian returned to the area ”would, solely on account of his presence on the territory of that country or region, face a real risk of being subject to that threat.”
        -By Charles Forelle, Wall Street Journal, +32 2 741 1329

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