Norway: Supreme Court rules that a “significant and stable change” in the country of origin is needed to justify cessation of refugee status

Friday, March 23, 2018

On 23 March 2018, the Supreme Court of Norway ruled in case 2017/1659 concerning an appeal brought by the Norwegian Government/the Immigration Appeals Board (UNE) against the decision by the Borgarting Court of Appeal, which had found that the UNE had erred in its decision of cessation of the refugee status of an Afghan woman and her daughter.

The applicants arrived in Norway in 2011 and were granted international protection on the grounds that their home district (Jaghori, Afghanistan) was unsafe and that, in view of her situation as a single woman without a strong social network, she could not resort to an internal flight alternative in Kabul. However, since the applicant’s partner later joined them in Norway, the national authorities understood that the conditions in which the asylum decision was based ceased to exist and, assuming that the situation in her region had improved, made an administrative decision of cessation of international protection, and the family was removed to Kabul. The applicants presented a lawsuit against the Norwegian government claiming that the UNE decision is invalid. The Oslo Primary Court and the Borgarting Court of Appeal, ruled that the national authorities had incorrectly applied Section 37 of the Immigration Act, which transposes Article 1C of the 1951 Refugee Convention, since they had not considered whether there had been a “significant and stable change” in the security situation in the Jaghori district. The Government appealed further to the Norwegian Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court of Norway upheld the lower court’s conclusion and dismissed the Norwegian Government’s appeal. It found that the third applicant’s arrival alone could not justify the application of the cessation clauses, but had to be followed by an assessment of whether, in the light of security situation in their district of origin, the applicants would be able to get protection in Afghanistan. The Court of Appeal was right, therefore, to conclude that the authorities had not assessed if a “significant and stable change” had taken place in the country of origin. The Supreme Court also ruled that, differently from an assessment under Article 8 ECHR, the application of the cessation clauses do not call for a proportionality assessment.

Based on an unofficial translation by the ELENA Weekly Legal Update. We would like to thank Halvor Frihagen, the ELENA Coordinator in Norway, for his assistance with summarising this decision and with bringing this case to our attention. The applicant was represented by Advokat Vera Vikki of Humlen Advokater AS, a member of the Norwegian ELENA network.


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Cessation of protection
Internal armed conflict