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Estonia / Supreme Court / 3-19-1068

Police and Border Guard Board vs X (asylum seeker, Armenian national)

Deciding Body type:
National Court/Tribunal
Deciding Body:
Supreme Court
Decision date:
Key facts of the case:
The case concerns an Armenian national (hereinafter as affected party) who crossed the border on 4 June 2019 from the Russian Federation to the Republic of Estonia irregularly and was therefore detained. The affected party applied for international protection. On 5 June 2019, the Police and Border Guard Board (PBGB) (Politsei- ja Piirivalveamet) applied to detain him in the detention centre until the decision has been made on his asylum application, but no longer than for two months. The PBGB argued that the basis to detain him derives from the fact that he has entered into Estonia illegally several times, he already applied for asylum in 2018 and it was not granted, he was deported on 21 February 2019 and an entry ban of five years was imposed, and therefore there is a reasonable ground to believe he has lodged an application for international protection in order to defer the obligation to leave or to avoid expulsion, and that he may pose a threat to national security or public order. The PBGB’s application was satisfied by the Administrative Court (Halduskohus) and it was not overruled by the Circuit Court (Ringkonnakohus). The affected party explained that he had lived in Estonia since 1988, but was deported from Estonia to Armenia for the first time in 2009 and for the second time in 2019, he has no one in Armenia, his long-term partner (now spouse) lives in Estonia and he would like to live together with her. Due to the re-entry ban, he has not been able to obtain a residence permit and he has not received a reply to his visa applications. He believes alternative measures to detention could have been used.
Key legal question raised by the Court:
The Supreme Court (Riigikohus) considered whether detaining the asylum seeker based on § 361 (2) 5) and 6) of the Act on Granting International Protection to Aliens (AGIPA) (“An applicant for international protection may be detained if it is unavoidably necessary (5) where there is a reason to believe that the person has submitted an application for international protection to postpone the obligation to leave or prevent expulsion or (6) for protection of the security of state or public order”) was legal and valid, an if it violated the Charter of Fundamental Rights and the Directive 2013/33/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 26 June 2013 laying down standards for the reception of applicants for international protection.
Outcome of the case:
The Supreme Court drew the attention of the legislator to the need to specify § 361 (2) 5) of the AGIPA. See in this regard para 19 of the judgment. The Supreme Court put forward that according to the European Court of Justice, on the basis of national security or public order, the detention of a person protects the public from the danger which that person's conduct may entail. It added that given the importance of the right to liberty and the seriousness of the interference with respect for that right, restrictions on the exercise of that right must be limited to what is strictly necessary. See in this regard para 21 of the judgment. The Supreme Court annulled the ruling of the Tartu Administrative Court and the ruling of the Tartu Circuit Court and issued a new ruling rejecting the application of the PBGB for detention of X and his placement in the detention centre.