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EU court: Conversions to Christianity must be taken into account when assesing asylum applications

The victory of an asylum seeker who became a Christian in Austria could set a precedent for other new believers in Europe.

AUTOR 5/Evangelical_Focus LUXEMBOURG 04 DE MARZO DE 2024 10:41 h
The Court of Justice of the EU (CJEU). / [link]CJEU[/link]

The Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) recently upheld the case of asylum seekers who have changed their religion after leaving their country of origin.

EU member states cannot presume that asylum seekers who claim religious conversion after leaving their home country do so only to obtain a refugee status.

The CJEU has prohibited countries in the EU to automatically reject any asylum claim based on matters of faith, and requires them to carry out individual assessments for every case, to determine whether the change of faith is genuine or not.

The court based in Luxembourg has ruled that when the applicant “has credibly demonstrated that he had converted to Christianity ‘out of inner conviction’ and actively practises that faith”, if he fulfils the conditions provided for by the Qualification Directive as a refugee, “he must be granted that status”.

On the contrary, when it is found that there is an abusive intention to instrumentalise the procedure, “granting of refugee status may be refused”, even when the applicants have “justified fears of being persecuted in this or their own countries”.

However, they retain the status of refugee, and “must be able to benefit from the protection guaranteed by convention, which prohibits, expelling or returning refugees to the frontiers of territories where their life or freedom would be threatened”.


A case in Austria

This sentence stems from an asylum application filed in Austria by an Iranian citizen who converted to Christianity upon his arrival in the country and feared that he would be persecuted in his home country if he were deported.

Austrian authorities found that he had credibly demonstrated that he had converted to Christianity in Austria actively practised his faith, but refused to grant him refugee status because according to Austrian law, the applicant should have proved that he already practised Christianity in Iran.

The Austrian administrative court asks the CJEU whether such a condition is compatible with the Qualification Directive, and, in its ruling, and the CJEU ruled that it did not.

The ruling is not binding and the CJEU returned the case to the Austrian judiciary so that its opinion can be taken into account when issuing the final judgment, which will establish jurisprudence for similar cases in other EU countries.


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