Key facts of the case
Request for a preliminary ruling from the Administrativen sad Sofia-grad.
Reference for a preliminary ruling — Common policy on asylum and subsidiary protection — Standards for the qualification of third-country nationals or stateless persons as beneficiaries of international protection — Directive 2011/95/EU — Articles 3, 4, 10 and 23 — Applications for international protection lodged separately by family members — Individual assessment — Taking into account threats in respect of a family member in carrying out the individual assessment of the application for international protection of another family member — More favourable standards capable of being retained or introduced by the Member States for the purpose of extending the refugee or subsidiary protection status of a beneficiary of international protection to family members — Assessment of the reasons for persecution — Involvement of an Azerbaijani national in bringing a complaint against her country before the European Court of Human Rights — Common procedural standards — Directive 2013/32/EU — Article 46 — Right to an effective remedy — Full and ex nunc examination — Reasons for persecution or evidence withheld from the determining authority but invoked in the course of an action against the decision taken by that authority.
Outcome of the case
On those grounds, the Court (Second Chamber) hereby rules:
1. Article 4 of Directive 2011/95/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 13 December 2011 on standards for the qualification of third-country nationals or stateless persons as beneficiaries of international protection, for a uniform status for refugees or for persons eligible for subsidiary protection, and for the content of the protection granted, must be interpreted as meaning that, in carrying out the assessment of an application for international protection on an individual basis, account must be taken of the threat of persecution and of serious harm in respect of a family member of the applicant for the purpose of determining whether the applicant is, because of his family tie to the person at risk, himself exposed to such a threat.
2. Directive 2011/95 and Directive 2013/32/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 26 June 2013 on common procedures for granting and withdrawing international protection must be interpreted as not precluding applications for international protection lodged separately by members of a single family from being subject to measures intended to address any interaction between applications, but as precluding those applications from being subject to a single assessment. They also preclude the assessment of one of those applications from being suspended until the conclusion of the examination procedure in respect of another of those applications.
3. Article 3 of Directive 2011/95 must be interpreted as permitting a Member State, when granting international protection to a family member pursuant to the system established by that directive, to provide for an extension of the scope of that protection to other family members, provided that they do not fall within the scope of a ground for exclusion laid down in Article 12 of that directive and that their situation is, due to the need to maintain family unity, consistent with the rationale of international protection.
4. Article 33(2)(e) of Directive 2013/32 does not cover a situation, such as that at issue in the main proceedings, in which an adult lodges, in her own name and on behalf of her minor child, an application for international protection which is based, inter alia, on a family tie with another person who has lodged a separate application for international protection.
5. The involvement of an applicant for international protection in bringing a complaint against his country of origin before the European Court of Human Rights cannot in principle be regarded, for the purposes of assessing the reasons for persecution referred to in Article 10 of Directive 2011/95, as proof of that applicant’s membership of a ‘particular social group’, within the meaning of Article 10(1)(d) of that directive, but must be regarded as a reason for persecution for ‘political opinion’, within the meaning of Article 10(1)(e) of the directive, if there are valid grounds for fearing that involvement in bringing that claim would be perceived by that country as an act of political dissent against which it might consider taking retaliatory action.
6. Article 46(3) of Directive 2013/32 read in conjunction with the reference to the appeal procedure contained in Article 40(1) of that directive, must be interpreted as meaning that a court before which an action has been brought against a decision refusing international protection is, in principle, required to examine, as ‘further representations’ and having asked the determining authority for an assessment of those representations, grounds for granting international protection or evidence which, whilst relating to events or threats which allegedly took place before the adoption of the decision of refusal, or even before the application for international protection was lodged, have been relied on for the first time during those proceedings. That court is not, however, required to do so if it finds that those grounds or evidence were relied on in a late stage of the appeal proceedings or are not presented in a sufficiently specific manner to be duly considered or, in respect of evidence, it finds that that evidence is not significant or insufficiently distinct from evidence which the determining authority was already able to take into account.