On the 16th of February 2023, the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) published the Advocate’s General Opinion in respect of joined cases C‑663/21 and C‑8/22. The first case concerned a Syrian refugee who was sentenced to several suspended prison terms hence Austria decided to revoke his refugee status based on Article 14 of the Qualification Directive and issue a return order accompanied by a residence ban; however Austria also stated that a return to Syria was not permitted. The second case concerned an applicant whose refugee status was revoked following a conviction of 25 years imprisonment.

The Advocate General De La Tour (AG) answered the first question by stating that Member States (MS) may revoke a refugee status only if the MS proves that the refugee is convicted by a final judgment of a particularly serious crime and that this crime results in the refugee being a danger to their society.

The AG ruled on the second question that MS should prove that the refugee poses a real, present, and sufficiently serious danger to their society. In determining whether the refugee poses such a danger, all details must be considered including nature of the offence, passage of time and the behaviour since the commission, reintegration, recidivism risk. The AG highlighted that the refugee should be able to challenge these points on the basis of the Asylum Procedure Directive.

Next, the AG highlighted that MS must respect the EU Charter and the proportionality principle when revoking a refugee status. This principle requires MS to balance the interest of protecting their society against the interest of the refugee in maintaining their status, taking into account the consequences of that the revocation on the refugee’s personal and family situation. To avoid non-compliance with this principle MS may also grant more rights than the minimum provided by Article 14(6) to refugees whose status they wish to revoke. Furthermore, this balancing exercise does not include the risks of return when return is impossible due to non-refoulement.

Lastly, the AG ruled that the Return Directive and EU Charter preclude the adoption of a return decision in respect of a refugee whose status is revoked, when it is established that removal is impossible for an indefinite duration due to the principle of non-refoulement.