On 23 May 2019, the Council of Justice for the European Union (CJEU) published its ruling in the case of Bilali (C-720/17). The case, submitted by the Austrian Federal Office for Immigration and Asylum, concerns the interpretation of Article 19 of Directive 2011/95/EUin the revocation of subsidiary protection status.

The applicant requested asylum in Austria in 2009, submitting he was stateless, and was granted subsidiary protection status in 2010 with the assumption that he was probably Algerian. In 2012, the Federal Asylum Office revoked the status on factual grounds that emerged upon further investigation. According to the referring court, there is nothing to indicate that the delay in gathering information was attributable to the applicant. The question submitted by the referring court concerns the interpretation of Article 19(1) of Directive 2011/95 on the possibility of revocation of subsidiary protection status without a change in the relevant factual circumstances, but rather only where the knowledge of the authority has changed and the person concerned cannot be accused of having misled the Member State.

In assessing the case, the CJEU held that it would be contrary to the general scheme and objectives of Directive 2011/95 to grant refugee status and subsidiary protection status to third-country nationals in situations which have no connection with the rationale of international protection. The Court found that the loss of subsidiary protection status in such circumstances is consistent with the purpose and general scheme of Directive 2011/95, and in particular with Article 18 thereof, which provides for subsidiary protection status to be granted only to persons who meet the conditions required to qualify for subsidiary protection. Thus, the Court stated that if the Member State concerned was not entitled to grant that status, it must, a fortiori, be obliged to withdraw it when its mistake is discovered.

Relying on Articles 16 and 19(1) of the Directive 2011/95, the Court found that where the Member State has new information which establishes that, contrary to its initial assessment based on incorrect information, that person never faced a risk of serious harm, within the meaning of Article 15 of that Directive, that Member State must conclude that the circumstances underlying the granting of subsidiary protection status have changed in such a way that retention of that status is no longer justified. That this error was not attributable to the applicant does not alter the fact that the applicant is not eligible for subsidiary protection.

The Court added that this does not imply that the person concerned loses any rights of residence and can be deported to his country of origin, and it does not preclude a person from applying for another kind of protection outside of the scope of Directive 2011/95. The Court emphasized that the Member State is obliged to observe the right to respect for private and family life under Article 7 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union and Article 8 of the ECHR.