Asylum seekers with terror links may be rejected, says Europe’s top court

A ruling by the European Court of Justice has allowed EU nations to reject asylum seekers with links to terrorist groups. The court said recruiting or equipping foreign fighters justifies ‘exclusion from refugee status.’

Deutschland Sonderzug mit Flüchtlingen (picture alliance/dpa/P. Pleul)

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The European Court of Justice (ECJ) on Tuesday ruled that EU nations may reject asylum seekers who have participated in a terrorist group’s activities, even if they did not commit an attack or provide financial support.

The court’s ruling is a response to the case of Moroccan national Mostafa Lounani, who applied for asylum in Belgium on the basis that his country of origin considered him a “radical Islamist and jihadist.”

Belgian authorities denied his request for asylum, citing a 2006 conviction for “active participation in the organization of a network for sending volunteers to Iraq.”

Louhani was found guilty and sentenced to six years in prison for forging passports for would-be militants of the Moroccan Islamic Combatant Group, which the Belgian court described as “an act of participation in the activities of a cell providing logistical support to a terrorist movement.”

Europe’s top court cited a UN Security Council resolution that expressed “grave concern over the acute and growing threat posed by foreign terrorist fighters” for its ruling.

“His logistical support to the activities of that group has an international dimension in so far as he was involved in the forgery of passports and assisted volunteers who wanted to travel to Iraq,” the ECJ ruled.

“In the opinion of the court, such acts can justify exclusion from refugee status,” it added.

Terrorism: A fine line?

In 2015, the EU allowed more than one million migrants to enter the bloc, many of them fleeing conflict and extreme poverty in the Middle East, Africa and Asia.

However, Europe has been hit by a series of terrorist attacks in Berlin, Paris and Brussels since then, prompting a bloc-wide debate on how to deal with asylum seekers suspected of participating in militant activities.

Most notably, Tunisian national Anis Amri, a rejected asylum seeker, launched a deadly attack in Berlin when he drove a truck through a Christmas market, leaving 12 people dead and dozens more injured.

After the attack, questions arose as to why authorities had not detained him for deportation after he told a German intelligence informant more than a year before that he considered perpetrating an attack on German soil.

The ECJ’s ruling provides an EU-wide legal basis for authorities who have or will reject asylum applications on the grounds that the asylum seeker participated in a terrorist group’s activities, and not solely for committing an attack.

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