Court victory: a person who has reasonable grounds to fear persecution must be recognised as a refugee

A year ago, on March 9, 2023, citizen X (name known to the Human Rights Centre) of the Russian Federation submitted an application for international protection to the Police and Border Guard Board (PPA), citing the war between Russia and Ukraine, long-term residence in Ukraine, and persecution in Russia due to political beliefs and based on belonging to a social group. PPA rejected the request and ordered them to leave Estonia. X turned to lawyers of the Estonian Human Rights Centre, who helped to appeal the PPA’s decision. Today, on March 3, 2023, the decision of the Tallinn District Court came into force, cancelling the decision of the PPA and obliging the PPA to reconsider the application.

A foreigner is recognised as a refugee in Estonia if they have reasonable grounds to fear persecution, there is at least one of the five reasons for persecution – race, religion, nationality, political belief or belonging to a social group – and there is a causal connection between the persecution (or lack of protection against persecution) and the reason mentioned above. In addition, there must be no circumstances precluding recognition as a refugee. According to the PPA, the applicant cannot be qualified as a refugee, as the risk of persecution if they returned to Russia is not sufficient.

According to Uljana Ponomarjova, a Refugee Lawyer at the Estonian Human Rights Centre, this cannot be said, “X, who belongs to the LGBT community, has lived in Ukraine for many years and personally witnessed the horrors of war. They have expressed their feelings towards the Russian authorities and want to speak publicly about their experiences in the war in Ukraine. The plaintiff has reasonable grounds to fear persecution in the Russian Federation for two reasons, both because of their political beliefs against the war in Ukraine and because they belong to the LGBT community.”

Today we have reason to rejoice: the Tallinn District Court upheld the decision of the Tallinn Administrative Court, which annulled the decision of the Police and Border Guard Board. The PPA must re-examine the applicant’s application for international protection and make a new decision based on the court’s reasoning.

The project was funded but the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

Since you are here...

It is important to protect everyone’s human rights, because it helps to keep stability and peace in the society. There are many challenges for protection of human rights in Estonia: intolerance has really come out of the closet. Bad things happen when good people are too passive, but together we can make a change.

Estonian Human Rights Centre is the competent, accountable and impactful independent human rights organisation in Estonia. Your recurring or one-time donation helps to stand up for human rights everywhere: in courts, in the media, in schools, in the workplace, on the streets and in governmental venues.

Donating is easy, and you can use your credit card if donating from abroad.

Donate now