On 19 March, the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) delivered its judgmentregarding, inter alia, the threshold for suspending the transfer of an asylum applicant under the Dublin III Regulation based on the living conditions of beneficiaries of international protection in the Member State responsible, as well as the requirements for extending the time limit for transfer.

The applicant, a Gambian national, had applied for asylum in Italy and Germany. The German authorities rejected the application as inadmissible and ordered the applicant’s transfer to Italy. On appeal, the applicant argued that Germany had become the Member State responsible due to the expiry of the time limit for transfer of 6 months and that, in any case, he could not be transferred to Italy due to the systemic deficiencies and living conditions beneficiaries of international protection are facing there. At the second instance, a request was submitted before the CJEU for a preliminary ruling on the interpretation of Articles 3(2) and 29(1) and (2) of the Dublin III Regulation as well as Article 4 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union (CFR).

The CJEU first ruled that, according to its case law, an asylum applicant may not be transferred under the Dublin III Regulation to the Member State responsible for processing their application, if the living conditions would expose them to a situation of extreme material poverty amounting to inhuman or degrading treatment within the meaning of Article 4 CFR. In this regard, the Court held that the threshold was only met where such deficiencies, in light of all the circumstances of the individual case, attained a particularly high level of severity beyond a high degree of insecurity or a significant degradation of living conditions. The latter finding is also supported by the jurisprudence of the European Court of Human Rights. Correspondingly, national courts had the obligation to examine, on the basis of information that is objective, reliable, specific and properly updated and having regard to the standard of protection of fundamental rights guaranteed by EU law, whether there was a real risk for the applicant to find himself in such situation of extreme material poverty.

With regard to the extension of the time limit for transfer, the Court noted, inter alia, that an applicant ‘absconds’ when they deliberately evade the reach of the national authorities responsible for carrying out the transfer. This may be presumed when the applicant has left the accommodation allocated to them without informing the competent authorities, provided that they have been informed of this obligation. However, under such circumstances the applicant retains the possibility to demonstrate that there were valid reasons for not informing the authorities of his absence and that he did not have the intention to evade the reach of those authorities.