Court Ruling: Serious Deficiencies Found in the Procedure of Police and Border Guard Board

In early July, a court ruling in favor of the Estonian Human Rights Centre (EHCR)  came into effect, concerning the procedure for international protection (IP). The court overturned the Police and Border Guard Board’s (PBGB) decision to deny international protection and ruled that the PBGB must review the application again.

EHCR’s legal representatives appeared in court on behalf of a transgender individual of Ukrainian nationality who was a Russian Federation citizen. Before February 24, 2022, when the full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine began, this person had an ongoing application for Ukrainian citizenship. Additionally, they had made donations to the Ukrainian armed forces. Due to the lack of access to essential hormone treatments and medical care for transgender individuals in Russia, as well as the tightening legislation regarding expressing anti-war views, life in Russia had become unbearable for them. Consequently, they submitted an application to the PBGB for international protection, which was rejected.

Both the court and the EHCR’s legal team deemed the administrative procedure conducted by the PBGB to be drastically deficient. In this case, the applicant’s need for international protection required assessment from several distinct aspects. Throughout the administrative procedure, the PBGB should have simultaneously considered their transgender identity, Ukrainian nationality, being under the influence of Russian authorities, political orientation, and support for Ukraine. According to the court’s assessment, the PBGB did not evaluate the circumstances cumulatively and relied on outdated information from the applicant’s country of origin when making the denial decision.

The court decided that since the PBGB violated the requirements of the Foreign Nationals Act for assessing the applicant’s special needs for international protection during the procedure and conducted the administrative process inadequately, the PBGB’s decision to deny international protection must be annulled, and the process must be properly conducted anew.

Furthermore, the court recommended that the PBGB direct international protection applicants to contact the Estonian Human Rights Centre to ensure they receive the necessary legal support during the procedure.

Link to the court ruling (in Estonian).

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