Loss of refugee status by going on holiday to the country of persecution

Published: 29 August 2017 Author: Stefan Talmon

Responding to media reports that refugees had been “going on holiday” in the countries from where they fled persecution, Chancellor Angela Merkel said in an interview published on 27 August 2017:

“I can imagine difficult family situations where a return for a few days is understandable. Actually going on holiday in the country in which one is being persecuted is not on. If this is done anyway, this can be a reason to re-examine the asylum decision.”

This statement is in line with the position taken by the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF). According to section 72, paragraph 1a, of the Asylum Act, recognition of refugee status shall cease to have effect if the foreigner “voluntarily returns to or settles in the country he left or stayed away from for fear of persecution”. However, a return to the country of persecution does not automatically lead to the cessation of refugee status. The Asylum Act has to be interpreted in line with European law which requires a decision on a case-by-case basis for the withdrawl of international protection. For the decision to withdraw refugee status, the BAMF distinguishes between the various reasons for the return to the country of persecution. The BAMF takes the position that

“a short return journey to fulfill a moral obligation, such as attending a funeral, visiting a critically-ill relative, does not constitute a reason for the withdrawal [of refugee status]. However, in case of journeys for holiday purposes, this may be an indication that the refugee is not facing a fear of persecution. In this case, one may consider a revocation or withdrawal [of refugee status] in accordance with section 73 of the Asylum Act.”

The withdrawal of refugee status as a result of refugees going on holiday to their country of persecution is in line with the Geneva Convention and Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees. Holidaying in a country is incompatible with the requirement of a well-founded fear of persecution in that country. Article 1, paragraph C.1, provides that this Convention shall cease to apply to any person qualifying as a refugee under the Convention if “he has voluntarily re-availed himself of the protection of the country of his nationality.” A return by refugees to their homeland for holiday purposes must be considered a voluntary re-availing of the protection of their country of nationality.

Category: International refugee law

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  • Stefan Talmon

    Stefan Talmon is Professor of Public Law, Public International Law and European Union Law, and Director at the Institute of Public International Law at the University of Bonn. He is also a Supernumerary Fellow of St. Anne’s College, Oxford, and practices as a Barrister from Twenty Essex, London. He is the editor of GPIL.

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