C-255/19: CJEU Judgment on the concept of ‘protection’ in country of origin

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

On 20 January 2021, the CJEU published its judgment in Secretary of State for the Home Department v OA (C-255/19) concerning a request for preliminary ruling, made in the context of proceedings concerning the revocation of OA, a Somali national’s refugee status.
The Secretary of State revoked OA’s refugee status on the ground of a change in circumstances in his country of origin and declared him to be ineligible for humanitarian protection under the national immigration legislation. The Upper Tribunal set aside the First Tier Tribunal’s decision to dismiss OA’s appeal, stayed proceedings and referred four questions to the CJEU.
Firstly, the CJEU observed that the referring court in essence, sought to ascertain whether Article 11(1)(e) of the Qualification Directive (2004/83/EC) must be interpreted as meaning that the requirements for the ‘protection’ referred in the provision in relation to cessation of refugee status must be the same as those which arise in respect of granting that status. The CJEU pointed to the inherent ‘parallelism’ established by the Qualification Directive and it stated that a country of origin’s ability or inability to demonstrate that it can provide protection from acts of persecution constitutes ‘a crucial element’ in the assessment required for the grant of refugee status or cessation of that status. As such, the CJEU concluded that it is implied that the change in circumstances must remedy the reasons which led to the recognition of refugee status in order for the cessation of that status.
The CJEU subsequently considered whether social and financial support provided by private actors, such as the family or the clan of the third country national concerned, can be held to constitute protection that meets the requirements arising from Article 11(1)(e). It reiterated that protection is generally thought to be provided when actors take reasonable steps to prevent persecution by, inter alia, operating an effective legal system to deal with acts constituting persecution and ensuring access to such protection. The CJEU concluded that mere social and financial support which is made available to a third country national concerned, is inherently incapable of either preventing acts of persecution or of detecting, prosecuting and punishing such acts and, therefore, cannot be regarded as providing the protection required by Article 11(1)(e). Moreover, the CJEU recalled that as a general rule economic hardship cannot be regarded as ‘persecution’ and consequently, social and financial support intended to remedy this hardship can be of no relevance to the assessment of the adequacy of protection provided by the State.

The CJEU concluded that Article 11(1)(e) of the Qualification Directive must be interpreted as meaning that the requirements to be met by the ‘protection’ to which that provision refers in respect of the cessation of refugee status must be the same as those which arise, in relation to the granting of that status. It also held that the same provision must be interpreted as meaning that any social and financial support provided by private actors, such as the family or the clan of a third country national concerned, falls short of what is required to constitute protection and is, therefore, of no relevance either to the assessment of the adequacy of the State protection or to the determination of whether a well-founded fear of persecution persists.

You can read the extended EDAL summary here. Photo: triin, May 2007, Flickr (CC).

This item was reproduced with the permission of ECRE from the ELENA Weekly Legal Update. The purpose of these updates is to inform asylum lawyers and legal organizations supporting asylum seekers and refugees of recent developments in the field of asylum law. Please note that the information provided is taken from publicly available information on the internet. Every reasonable effort is made to make the content accurate and up to date at the time each item is published but no responsibility for its accuracy and correctness, or for any consequences of relying on it, is assumed by ECRE.                               

Actors of protection
Cessation of protection
Revocation of protection status