Supreme Court orders gov’t to process asylum requests

Spain's Supreme Court building. Photo: Wikicommons
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Spain’s Tribunal Supremo (Supreme Court) has ordered the Spanish government to step up processing of asylum requests in order to comply with a 2015 European Union agreement to help relocate a total of 160,000 people temporarily sheltered in refugee camps in Italy and Greece.

The government of former President Mariano Rajoy had agreed at the height of the 2015 EU refugee crisis to process asylum requests and relocate to Spain a total of 16,000 asylum seekers as its share of the EU-wide total, with the remainder of those housed in the camps in Italy and Greece to be shared out among other countries. Spain’s government later agreed to increase its quota to a total of 19,449 asylum seekers, whose requests for refugee status were to have been processed within two years.

When the two-year deadline expired in September 2017, the Rajoy government had processed asylum requests for less than 13 percent of its agreed-upon number of applicants and had relocated just 1,257 of the refugees, prompting two Spanish NGOs that defend refugee rights to file a lawsuit with the Supreme Court. In a ruling published this week, the Spanish Supreme Court found in favor of the NGO plaintiffs, ruling that the Spanish government had violated a “binding and obligatory” accord with the European Council and ordering the government to continue processing asylum requests from people located in the camps in Italy and Greece.

None of the other 28 EU countries that signed up to the 2015 EU accord have taken in their full share of refugees, though the Rajoy government’s compliance with the accord lags that of most other nations in the EU bloc. Many of the refugees housed in the camps in Italy and Greece have since left, migrating elsewhere in Europe without possessing the proper immigration documents.

The Spanish Supreme Court ruling marks the first time in Europe that a national court has ruled against its own government over the issue of non-compliance with the 2015 EU refugee settlement agreement.

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