M.A. and Others v. Poland

Application № 42902/17
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The Court found violations of the applicants’ rights and awarded them compensation
flag Poland / flag Belarus / flag Russia / European Court of Human Rights
Case type: expulsion / deportation

The complainants in the case are husband (“M.A.”), his wife and their children. All of them are Russian nationals of Chechen origin.

The case concerns repeated refusals to receive an application for asylum at the Polish border at the “Terespol” checkpoint and the applicants’ subsequent expulsion to Belarus.

Circumstances of the case

In 2017, M.A. was tortured by the Chechen police. The applicants therefore decided to seek asylum in the European Union.

The family first travelled to Brest, Belarus. In April 2017, the complainants tried to enter Poland through the “Terespol” border checkpoint twice and apply for asylum there. They told the border guards that in Belarus they feared for their safety, as they would not be able to obtain protection there and would be removed to Chechnya. However, the applicants' applications for asylum were ignored and the applicants were returned to Belarus.

In June 2017, our lawyer filed a request for interim measures to the European Court of Human Rights. The Court granted the request and ordered the Polish authorities to accept the family’s application for asylum and refrain from removing them to Belarus pending the decision on the application. The applicants continued to travel to “Terespol” and apply for asylum, but despite the Court’s order, the Polish authorities continued to ignore their applications and expelled them to Belarus each time.

In December 2017, the family returned to Russia, where M.A. was apprehended and detained in Chechnya. There he was tortured again. After some time he was released. The wife and the children were able to enter Poland and apply for asylum only in January 2018, and the husband – in March 2018.

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Decision

On 23 July 2020, the Court delivered its judgement on the complaint in favor of the applicants. The Court pointed out that the Polish authorities had violated articles 3, 13 and 34 of the European Convention on Human Rights and article 4 of Protocol No 4 to the Convention. The violation of article 3 occurred, because Polish border guards had repeatedly refused to accept the applicants’ application for asylum. The Court also took into account the fact that the Belarusian authorities do not provide protection to asylum seekers from Chechnya and return them back to Russia. Having refused to accept the applicants’ applications for asylum and allow them to stay in the country during the consideration of the applications, the Polish authorities therefore put them at risk of being removed from Belarus to Russia, where they would run a real risk of torture and other ill-treatment.

The Court also found that the expulsion of the applicants from Poland without an individual assessment of their case was "part of a wider policy of not receiving applications for international protection from persons presenting themselves at the Polish-Belarusian border and of returning those persons to Belarus, in violation of domestic and international law". According to the Court, such measures constituted collective expulsion which violated article 4 of Protocol No 4 to the Convention.

Article 13 of the Convention, taken in conjunction with article 3 of the Convention and article 4 of Protocol No 4 to the Convention, was violated, as the applicants were unable to effectively appeal against the refusals of entry to Poland.

The Court found that the Polish authorities had violated article 34 of the Convention because the state had implemented the indicated interim measure after considerable delay. Despite the fact that the family was eventually allowed to enter Poland in early 2018, Polish border guards repeatedly refused to let the applicants cross the border after the Court had granted interim measures request in June 2017.

The applicants were awarded 34,000 euros in compensation.

The Court examined the applicants’ complaint together with two other similar cases and delivered one judgement on them (see M.K. and Others against Poland, applications 40503/17, 42902/17 and 43643/17, 23 July 2020). All three applications concerned the Polish border guards’ refusal to allow forced migrants from Chechnya to submit applications for asylum at the border checkpoint “Terespol”. 

In view of the importance and novelty of the issues raised in the three applications, M.K. and Others v. Poland was classified as a “key case”.

Link: http://hudoc.echr.coe.int/eng?i=001-203840

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