In a decision motivated mainly by the protection of LGBT people and the desire to offer their nationals the hope of a more lenient asylum procedure in France, the Council of State withdrew, this Friday, July 2, the Republics Benin, Senegal and Ghana from the French list of so-called “safe” countries. According to Le Monde, which quotes AFP, this list of 16 countries established by Ofpra (French Office for the Protection of Refugees and Stateless Persons) is the subject of a legal battle that began at the end of 2019, after the entry into force. of the asylum and immigration law, which exposes the nationals of these countries to an expulsion procedure as soon as their asylum application is rejected at first instance, even before a possible appeal.
Controversial list, unchanged since 2015
Several associations then turned to the highest administrative court, after Ofpra decided on November 5, 2019 not to modify this list, unchanged since 2015. “The deliberation of November 5, 2019 of the board of directors of the ‘Ofpra is canceled “and” the Republics of Benin, Senegal and Ghana “must be removed from this list, ruled the Council of State in its decision delivered Friday.
Nationals of these three countries will therefore no longer be subject to accelerated procedures for their asylum applications, another consequence of placing a country on the list.
Regarding Benin, Ofpra had already decided in September 2020 to suspend its status as a “safe country of origin” for twelve months, without removing it from this list. For Senegal and Ghana, it is the risks linked to the “sexual orientation” of their nationals that motivated the decision. The Council of State detailed:
“Given the existence of legislative provisions penalizing homosexual relations in Senegal and Ghana and the persistence of behaviors, encouraged, favored or simply tolerated by the authorities of these countries, leading to people being able to fear that they will be exposed to [des] risks, Ofpra could not, without committing an error of assessment, consider these States to be safe countries of origin in examining the applications submitted by their nationals. ”
This withdrawal from the list is retroactive, “which means that asylum seekers from these countries must have their application reclassified under the normal procedure” and no longer accelerated, considers Forum refugees-Cosi. Another consequence: “The expulsion decisions taken against them while they are still in the appeal phase before the CNDA [Cour nationale du droit d’asile] are no longer justified, as is the withdrawal of material reception conditions [notamment financières], which must therefore be restored ”, rejoices the association.
For its part, Ofpra “takes note”, to AFP, of a decision which “has no bearing on the requirement of an individual examination (…) of asylum requests from nationals of these countries and on the possibility for these nationals to benefit from refugee status (…) when this examination reveals a need for protection ”. “In this regard”, continues the Ofpra, requests based on sexual orientation or gender identity “are the subject of special attention” by agents “specifically trained in these issues falling within the intimate ”.