On 13 September, the Court of Justice of the European Union delivered its judgment on a request for preliminary ruling by the Budapest Administrative and Labour Court. The case concerned an Afghan national whose refugee status had been withdrawn by the Hungarian authorities, after he requested that the consulate of Afghanistan be informed of criminal proceedings brought against him.

During a second procedure for refugee status determination, his application was dismissed by the Hungarian authorities, as the applicant was found to fall under the exclusion clause due to the criminal case brought against him. In particular, the basis for exclusion was a provision under Hungarian law regarding the commission of a serious crime that entailed a sentence of five years or more. The applicant challenged that decision, arguing that the characterisation of a crime as serious, in the context of Directive 2011/95/EU, required the authorities to assess the applicant’s case in an individual and comprehensive manner.

The Budapest Court requested a preliminary ruling from the CJEU on whether the penalty reserved for a specific crime could be the only criterion in the assessment of this crime as serious, in the context of the Directive provisions for exclusion from refugee status. The European Court cited its own case law on refugee status (joined cases C‑57/09 and C‑101/09), applying it by analogy to subsidiary protection cases, and confirmed that any decision on the exclusion from international protection cannot be automatic, but should involve a well-rounded assessment of each case.

As a result, the CJEU found that national legislation stands in contrast with EU law, where it provides that a crime’s penalty is the sole criterion in deciding its seriousness as a ground for exclusion from international protection. Instead, a full investigation into the factual circumstances that constitute the serious crime should always be carried out.