27 March 2012 – In a decision of 26 March 2012, the French Conseil d’Etat (supreme court for administrative law matters) quashed a decision of the French Immigration board, OFPRA (Office français de protection des réfugiés et apatrides), which, on 18 March 2011, had added Kosovo and Albania to the list of so-called safe countries of origin. The Conseil d’Etat followed the arguments of the NGOs and held that neither Kosovo, nor Albania can be considered as safe.
In the justification of its decision, the Court underlined that none of the two countries fulfils the criteria on the basis of which a country can be considered as safe. It argued that, in spite of progress made, in particular in Albania, both countries were still prone to political and social instabilities, and that certain categories of the population were exposed to violence without being able to count on the protection of the state authorities. In consequence, the Conseil d’Etat concluded that the decision to put the two countries on the list of safe countries of origin was illegal. It annulled the decision of the OFPRA together with its implementing guidelines (circulaire).
The decision to put a country on the list of “safe countries” of origin has important negative consequences for asylum seekers. When their country is considered as safe, asylum seekers are not admitted to stay on the French territory for the purpose of seeking asylum. Their asylum application is processed within the context of the so-called “procédure prioritaire”, an accelerated procedure, with minor guarantees in terms of appeal. Moreover, they are not entitled to any benefits or shelter.
The decision of the French Conseil d’Etat is not just important for asylum seekers of the Kosovo and Albania, who have applied for asylum in France, and who now have the possibility to ask for their case to be reopened. The judicial acknowledgment of the latent violence in Kosovo and Albania could also act as a signal beyond the French borders. Three days before the French court rendered its decision, the Belgian Council of Ministers decided to classify Kosovo and Albania (among other countries) as “safe”. The decision of the French Supreme Court substantiates the criticism of Belgian NGOs such as the CIRE, which stated, that the decision of putting a country on the list of so-called safe countries of origin was not a panacea to reduce the number of asylum seekers, but might act at the disadvantage those who are in need of protection.
Circulaire IOCL 1209299C du 4 avril 2012 informant les préfets sur les conséquences de l’arrêt du Conseil d’État du 26 mars 2012 concernant les ressortissants de la République du Kosovo et la République d’Albanie