Court: Lithuanian border guards’ block on Russian migrants asylum applications violated human rights law

Judges have ruled that Lithuanian border guards’ failure to allow Russian migrants to lodge asylum applications breached human rights law.

In its 11 December judgment in the case of M.A. and Others v. Lithuania (application no. 59793/17) the European Court of Human Rights held, by a majority, that there had been:

a violation of Article 3 (prohibition of torture), and a violation of Article 13 (right to an effective remedy) of the European Convention on Human Rights.

As Just Satisfaction (Article 41), the court held, by a majority of four to three, that Lithuania was to pay the applicants, a couple and their five children, collectively, 22,000 euros (EUR) in respect of non-pecuniary damage.

The case concerned a Russian family of seven who, after leaving Chechnya, tried on three separate occasions to seek asylum in Lithuania, but were each time refused the right to make an application at the border.

The court found in particular that, contrary to the Government’s arguments, the applicants had indeed sought asylum on each of the three occasions they had tried to cross the border from Belarus to Lithuania.

It also held that the Lithuanian border authorities had refused to accept the applicants’
asylum requests and forward them to competent authorities for examination of whether the applicants faced a risk of torture, or inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, if they were returned to Belarus and subsequently to Chechnya.

The court further found that, although the applicants had not appealed against the decisions refusing them entry to Lithuania, the fact that lodging such an appeal would not have automatically suspended their return to Belarus meant that it could not be considered an effective remedy.

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