LUXEMBOURG (Reuters) - European governments can refuse asylum to traumatized torture victims and deport them — even if a lack of healthcare in their home country means they may well kill themselves on return, a top EU court adviser said on Tuesday.
An advocate general of the European Court of Justice gave the opinion in the case of a former Tamil rebel who was refused asylum in Britain and appealed on the grounds that he would not get treatment in his native Sri Lanka for mental stress caused by his previous torture by government forces.
Yves Bot advised ECJ judges who will rule on the case later that the man, identified only as “MP”, no longer risked torture in Sri Lanka. The LTTE rebels were defeated in 2009.
ECJ judges typically follow the advice of the advocate general, although they are not bound to do so.
“MP may not claim subsidiary protection ... even if it is unlikely that he could receive the necessary treatment to manage the post-traumatic stress syndrome he suffers from, owing to shortcomings in the health system, and is likely to commit suicide if he is returned to his country of origin,” Bot said.
Britain’s Supreme Court had sought the ECJ’s guidance. Bot said the British judges could still choose to rule that the man was entitled to protection as a “very exceptional case”, but said MP did not appear to fit that category.
Bot stressed that a broader reading of the relevant law, giving asylum to all those who had suffered persecution in the past, would “considerably increase the obligations” of EU member states and would go beyond the intentions of lawmakers.
The European Union has faced deep political crisis in the past few years over large numbers of people seeking asylum; more than a million arrived in 2015. That has fuelled nationalist opposition to the EU as an institution and raised tensions among the member states, which have tightened controls on immigration.
Immigration, and the power of the ECJ to overrule British law, were both among the reasons cited by campaigners when Britain voted to leave the bloc.
Reporting by Lily Cusack in Brussels; editing by Alastair Macdonald and Peter Graff