Top EU court's adviser dismisses Slovakia, Hungary refugee challenge

The top EU court's adviser said that a case brought by Slovakia and Hungary challenging the obligatory relocation of asylum seekers across the bloc should be dismissed

26 July 2017, 12:31pm
Members of the Austrian army and police escort a group of migrants arriving from Slovenia at the border crossing in Spielfeld, Austria, 20 October 2015
Members of the Austrian army and police escort a group of migrants arriving from Slovenia at the border crossing in Spielfeld, Austria, 20 October 2015
Austria and Slovenia cannot send asylum seekers back to the country where they first entered the European Union during the 2015 migrant crisis, an adviser to the EU's Court of Justice said on Thursday, in a case likely to have wider repercussions for the bloc.

The two countries filed lawsuits with the European Court of Justice in 2015 shortly after the bloc's leaders pushed through the mandatory quotas to ease the migrant crisis, over the objections of Budapest and Bratislava.

Backed by neighbour Poland, the two countries had argued that the EU's 2015 scheme to have each member state host a certain number of refugees was unlawful.

The programme was designed to help ease pressure on asylum systems in Greece and Italy after mass arrivals across the Mediterranean.

But Yves Bot, the European Court of Justice's (ECJ) Advocate General, rejected most of the procedural arguments presented by Bratislava and Budapest, saying the resettlement scheme was "appropriate for attaining the objective which it pursues".

The Advocate General, whose advice is usually followed by Europe's top court, said the unprecedented inflow of migrants and the lack of clear guidance in the Dublin Regulation – legislation which states that refugees typically have to seek asylum in the first EU state they reach – on how to handle such a situation could leave EU border states unable to cope.

"In the Advocate General's view, the regulation was simply not designed to cover such exceptional circumstances," the court said in a statement.

The recommendation is likely to have implications for other asylum seekers, many of whom only lodged their requests when they reached their final destination, often Germany or Sweden rather than southern nations such as Greece where they first entered the EU.

A final ruling by the European Court of Justice is expected after the summer break. The Court does not have to but generally does follow the advisory opinion of the Advocate General.