BRUSSELS (AP) — The European Court of Human Rights ruled on Tuesday that Belgium violated the rights of a Sudanese refugee it deported three years ago despite a judicial decision that suspended the move.
The Strasbourg-based court said the refugee, who had entered Belgium illegally as he tried to reach the United Kingdom, took shelter in a Brussels park with another 100 migrants from Sudan.
He was arrested, ordered to leave the country and transferred to a migrant detention center near Brussels airport.
The 25-year-old man, only identified as M.A., told an official at the center that he had fled Sudan because he was wanted by authorities in the African country, and applied for asylum. After consulting a lawyer, he later filed a request to be released.
Despite a ruling from a Brussels court that he could not be deported before a decision on his request to be freed was issued, M.A. was taken to the airport and sent back home.
“He alleged that he had been met (at the airport) by a man in uniform who explained to him in Arabic that if he refused to board the plane, further attempts to remove him would be organized, and that he had been threatened with sedatives if he refused,” the court noted in a press statement.
Judges from the court of human rights concluded that Belgium prevented M.A, from pursuing his asylum application and did not properly assess the risks he faced in his country of origin before sending him back to Khartoum.
“In addition, by deporting the applicant in spite of the court order to suspend the measure, the authorities had rendered ineffective the applicant’s successful appeal,” the court said.
Robin Bronlet, one of the lawyers for M.A., said in a statement that the ruling should encourage Belgium to “do everything possible to ensure that (it) finally ceases to be condemned by international jurisdictions for its migration and detention policy.”
Bronlet said his client, who had fled the war-torn South Kordofan district of Sudan, remains in the country with no hope of getting a Belgian visa.
“He had told me that even though there was no money to gain, and nothing to get from the case for himself, he wanted to do something so that what took place would not happen to other people,” Bronlet told The Associated Press.
According to Amnesty international, M.A. was one of 99 Sudanese nationals detained by Belgian authorities in 2017, including 10 who were deported.
“This Court decision should result in swift government action,” the human rights watchdog said. “While the Belgian authorities claim to have amended some of their practices in the years since M.A. was deported, the new government needs to ensure that safeguards are in place to guarantee nobody else is returned to danger.”
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