Serbian Constitutional Court finds that a removal of a group of Afghan nationals amounts to collective expulsion

Tuesday, December 29, 2020

On 29 December 2020, the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Serbia rendered decision No. UŽ 1823/2017.

The case concerned a forcible removal of 25 refugees (9 children) from Afghanistan, who entered Serbia from Bulgaria. The group was arrested by the border police officers and was detained for 12 hours in the basement of the Border Police Station Gradina. Later on, they were taken to the misdemeanour court to face trial for illegal entry to Serbia. An acting judge dropped the charges stating that the defendants are in need of international protection, that they should not be removed to Bulgaria due to poor living conditions in reception centres and because ‘they might be victims of human trafficking’. The judge ordered the police to issue the applicants with asylum certificates and to take them to an asylum centre. Right after the trial, and upon being issued with asylum certificates, applicants were boarded in the back of the van and, instead of being taken to the reception centre, were taken to the green border area and collectively expelled to Bulgaria.

The Constitutional Court found that Gradina officers had violated the applicants’ right to liberty and security (Article 27 (3) and Article 29 (1) of the Constitution) by denying them the possibility to challenge the lawfulness of their detention with the assistance of competent legal representative. The Court dismissed the applicants’ claim that the material conditions of the basement amounted to inhumane and degrading treatment, stating that the period of 12 hours is not lengthy enough to reach the threshold of Article 25 of the Constitution (Article 3 of ECHR).

The Court has further found that it is an undisputable fact that applicants were expelled to Bulgaria. By applying the standards established in the ECtHR jurisprudence in Čonka, Hirsi Jamaa and Georgia v. Russia, the Court determined that the applicants were expelled to Bulgaria outside any legal procedure, without examining individual circumstances of every applicant and without the possibility to provide arguments against their expulsion.

The Court also awarded 1,000 dinar to each of the applicants.

With thanks to Nikola Kovacevic for providing the EWLU team with this summary.

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.                               

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