The Vilnius Regional Administrative Court in case No. el3-9170-1161/2023 stated that the provisions of the legislation regulating the time limits for examination of asylum applications are imperative, therefore, they do not give the right to the Migration Department to decide on the extension of the time limit for application.
The applicant left his country of origin due to persecution and unable to return due to a well-founded fear of persecution for his political opinion, he applied for political asylum in the Republic of Lithuania on 17 October 2022. The Migration Department delayed the processing of this application and did not effectively cooperate with the applicant. The Migration Department stated that it was unable to process the application due to heavy workload, the search for new employees and insufficient internal resources, but the Court held that such reasons could not be considered as justifiable reasons for violating the procedure laid down by law. It was not taken into account the information provided by the Migration Department that the number of foreigners who applied for asylum in the Republic of Lithuania were 321 in 2020, while 4259 applications in 2021, 1051 applications in 2022 and by April, 2023, 178 asylum seekers’ applications have already been submitted.
On April 13, 2023, the Migration Department wrote to the applicant informing him that the examination of his asylum application would take more than 6 months and that it expects a decision on his asylum application to be taken in the third quarter of 2023.
Paragraph 81 of the Law on the Legal Status of Aliens stipulates that an asylum application must be examined on its merits as soon as possible, but not later than within 6 months from the date of submission of the asylum application. In the present case, the Court notes that the notification of the decision is postponed for a very vague period of time, which leaves the applicant in a state of great uncertainty to his future.
Attention is also drawn to European Union law – the Directives of the European Parliament and the Council on granting and withdrawing international protection, give Member States the discretion to provide or not to provide for the possibility of extending the 6-month time limit, however, the Lithuanian legislator has chosen not to provide for such a possibility in the Law on the Legal Status of Aliens, therefore, the Migration Department is not entitled to refer directly to the provisions of the Directive to justify the missing of the set time limit. The provisions of the legislation governing the time limits for examining asylum applications are mandatory and therefore do not give the Migration Department the right to decide on the extension of the time limit.
The Migration Department stated that it had sought to cooperate with the asylum seeker, indicated the deadline for a decision and the contact details of the staff member examining his application, and informed him in the contested letter that the applicant had acquired the right to work in Lithuania. The Court noted that such arguments do not constitute an aim to cooperate in good faith with the applicant, since the applicant acquires these rights not at the discretion and goodwill of the defendant, but in accordance with the procedure laid down in Article 71(10) of the Law on the Legal Status of Aliens. Therefore, the measures taken by the Migration Department do not constitute cooperation in good faith and are completely vague and do not provide legal clarity and certainty.
The Court, by declaring the decision of the Migration Department unlawful, ordered the defendant to take a decision on the applicant’s asylum application as soon as possible. In view of the fact that the applicant’s asylum application should already have been considered, the Court stated a period of one month from the date on which the judgment become final, as the appropriate time limit for taking a decision on the applicant’s asylum application and for putting an end to the prolonged uncertainty to the future of the applicant.
Download the depersonalised court order.
The case was initiated by the Human Rights Monitoring Institute together with the law firm ReLex, as one of the strategic cases aiming at the judicial assessment of the fundamental deficiencies in the application of the law in the Lithuanian migration and asylum system and the correction of the flawed practice of the institutions.
The case was initiated in the framework of the project “Crossing the border: monitoring and advocating for the rights of migrants and asylum seekers” supported by the Active Citizens Foundation.
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