EU court says countries can reject asylum seekers with terrorism links

Logistical involvement in terrorist activity, including forging documents, is enough to be precluded from asylum procedures, the ECJ has confirmed. [Shutterstock]

EU member states can reject asylum seekers who have taken part in terrorist activities even if their role was confined to logistics, the bloc’s top court ruled today (31 January).

The European Court of Justice ruled against a Moroccan whose request for asylum in Belgium was rejected after a court convicted him in 2006 of forging passports for a Moroccan group recruiting jihadists for Iraq.

It said that the individual, Mostafa Lounani, had applied for refugee status expressing fears of persecution if he were returned to his home country which would likely view him as a radical Islamist and jihadist.

“An application for asylum can be rejected if the asylum seeker has participated in the activities of a terrorist network,” the court ruled.

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“It is not necessary that the asylum seeker personally committed terrorist acts, or instigated such acts, or participated in their commission,” it added.

The court cited a UN Security Council resolution in 2014 that raised alarm about the international networks created by foreign terrorist fighters moving across borders as they waged war in Syria and Iraq.

It said grounds for exclusion from asylum can extend to people engaged in the activities of recruitment, organisation, transportation of people who travel across borders to perpetrate or plot terror attacks.

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The Belgian court, it said, had sentenced Lounani to six years in jail for actively participating in the Belgian cell of the Moroccan Islamic Combatant Group by forging passports to help volunteers fight in Iraq.

It acknowledged that Lounani had not actually personally commit or instigate terrorist acts but that his involvement had taken on “an international dimension” due to his role in forging travel documents.

The court also based its decision on the fact that Lounani was a member of the leadership of a terrorist group operating internationally and blacklisted by the United Nations in 2002.

The onset of the refugee crisis has prompted fears that terrorists may disguise themselves as asylum seekers in order to infiltrate Europe. Those concerns were somewhat realised when a 17-year-old Afghan attacked passengers on a German train in July of last year.

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