Court Ruling: In the Process of International Protection, Circumstances Must Be Considered Cumulatively

In June, the refugee law attorneys of EHCR achieved an important court victory regarding the procedure of international protection. The Tallinn Circuit Court ordered the Police and Border Guard Board (PBGB) to reexamine the application for international protection due to two reasons: procedural irregularities and inadequate assessment of the circumstances.

An individual who had applied for international protection and received a negative decision from the PBGB approached EHRC The person in question is a citizen of the Russian Federation who has been living in Ukraine since 1998, identifies as Ukrainian, and had initiated the process of acquiring Ukrainian citizenship. However, due to the military invasion of Ukraine by Russia in February 2022, the application process remained incomplete. Nevertheless, the individual actively supported the Ukrainian military and aid organizations while criticizing the military activities of the Russian authorities on social media.

According to the assessment by EHRC’s lawyers, the PBGB did not consider the cumulative circumstances of the application, based its decision on incomplete information from the applicant’s country of origin, failed to take into account the applicant’s long-term residence in Ukraine, and disregarded their political opposition to the Russian authorities. The court agreed that the situation in Russia had significantly changed after the conflict that began on February 24, 2022. For instance, new legislation had been enacted under which individuals could be criminally punished for criticizing the Russian government and supporting Ukraine. As the court is required by law to assess the lawfulness of refusing to grant international protection based on the time of the court ruling, it had to take into account the new developments in the applicant’s country of origin, namely the Russian Federation.

The PBGB should have evaluated the consequences if the applicant were to continue the same activities in Russia as before, such as expressing pro-Ukraine and critical views of Russia on social media and providing financial support to the Ukrainian military and aid organizations.

In summary, the Tallinn Circuit Court decided that since the PBGB had not rectified the deficiencies of the contested administrative act with additional explanations and evidence presented in the appeal, the PBGB’s decision to refuse international protection must be annulled, and the procedure must be conducted again in compliance with the requirements.

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