The case of Singh and Others v Belgium (application no. 33210/11) at the European Court of Human Rights means it is now a breach of Articles 3 (freedom from torture or inhuman/degrading treatment) and 13 (right to effective legal remedies) to dismiss a claim without attempting to verify the seeker's documents. The consequence of this recent ruling is far-reaching and a case is already being reexamined by the UK Border Agency.
The previous status quo allowed agencies to dismiss claims based on the credibility of the appelant following Tanveer Ahmed and Secretary of State for the Home Department. Now, however, the UK Border Agency has confirmed to the UK Daily Mail that it would look again at an asylum claim of an Afghan man who had worked with British forces and been injured in a Taliban attack "after it appeared that the most basic checks had not been made by officers investigating the 26 year-old’s claim despite it having been lodged 14 months ago".
The case of Singh and Others concerned a family of asylum seekers who claimed to belong to the Sikh minority in Afghanistan. Their asylum application was dismissed by the Belgian authorities, which did not believe them to be Afghan nationals. They complained in particular that their removal from Belgium to Moscow entailed a risk of refoulement to their country of origin, where they would face ill-treatment.
The applicants, Nam Singh, 42, Meena Kaur, 32, and their three children Priyanka, 9, Sonam, 7, and Rounak, 4, Singh are Afghan nationals who arrived in Belgium in March 2011 from Moscow.
They did not have the legally required documents but they applied for asylum once the Aliens Office issued directions for their removal on 19 March 2011.
On 13 April 2011 the Office of the Commissioner General for Refugees and Stateless Persons (“CGRA”) rejected their applications on the grounds that they had not provided evidence of their Afghan nationality.
The Court found that copies of attestations from the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Delhi – documents produced in support of their case – had been rejected by the Belgian authorities without sufficient investigation and that that had been at odds with the close and rigorous scrutiny required by the right to an effective remedy.