Court Ruling: Adequate Support Must be Provided to Persons with Special Needs During the Procedure of International Protection

In early June, the refugee lawyers of EHCR achieved a significant court victory regarding the procedure of international protection. The court overturned the Police and Border Guard Board’s (PBGB) decision to deny international protection on two grounds: violation of procedural requirements and inadequate assessment of circumstances.

An individual who sought international protection from the Estonian government and received a negative decision from the PBGB turned to Estonian Human Rights Centre. The person in question belonged to the LGBT+ community and had been diagnosed with autism.

According to the law, the PBGB must ensure that applicants with special needs are provided with “adequate support” throughout the entire process. “Adequate support” can mean different things for different individuals, such as the involvement of a social worker or the opportunity to submit their views in written form, among others.

The lawyers from EHRC argued that the PBGB failed to consider the circumstances of the application cumulatively, relied on insufficient information regarding the applicant’s country of origin, and did not take the applicant’s special needs into account during the process.

The court found evidence that the appellant had approached the lawyers from EHCR, who represented them in the international protection procedure. However, the PBGB directly contacted the applicant, excluding the representative from communication on one occasion and conducting a conversation on another occasion in a way that prevented the representative from participating.

According to the court’s assessment, the PBGB’s handling of the applicant’s special needs evaluation was formalistic and failed to clarify the type of support the applicant might require due to their mental health issues. As a result, the PBGB significantly violated the appellant’s right to be heard. The court also determined that such behavior by the administrative authority, where documents were sent to the representative in one instance but not in another, was malicious and contrary to the principle of good administration.

In summary, the court decided that since the PBGB violated the requirements of the Aliens Act regarding the assessment of the applicant’s special needs during the procedure and deprived them of necessary support due to their special needs, the PBGB’s decision to deny international protection must be overturned, and the process should be conducted properly again.

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