Main Debates

Deflection and deterrence policies v. protection obligations

What minimum safeguards should there be for the implementation of safe third country returns?

Are European safe third country practices shifting the responsibility for refugees to transit states?

Main Points

Contrasts between UNHCR and EU criteria for determining safe third countries

Safe third country lists

European safe third country notion

Chain deportations

EU Documents

Directive 2013/32/EU of 26 June 2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council on common procedures for granting and withdrawing international protection (recast), OJ L 180/60, 29 June 2013.

Resolution on a Harmonised Approach to Questions Concerning Host Third Countries Document WG I 1283, adopted 30 November 1992, (London Resolution).

UNHCR Documents

UNHCR, ExCom Conclusion No 15 (XXX), ‘Refugees Without An Asylum Country’, 1979.

UNHCR, ExCom Conclusion No 58 (XL), Problem of Refugees and Asylum Seekers Who Move in an Irregular Manner From a Country in Which They Had Already Found Protection’, 1989.

UNHCR, ‘Global Consultations on International Protection, Background paper no 1: Legal and practical aspects of the return of persons not in need of protection’, May 2001.

UNHCR, Global Consultations on International Protection, Background paper no 2: The application of the “safe third country” notion and its impact on the management of flows and on the protection of refugees’, May 2001.

UNHCR, ‘Global Consultations on International Protection, Background paper no 3: Inter-State agreements for the re-admission of third country nationals, including asylum seekers, and for the determination of the State responsible for examining the substance of an asylum claim’, May 2001.

UNHCR, ’Guidance Note on bilateral and/or multilateral transfer arrangements of asylum-seekers’, May 2013.

See also UNHCR, Improving Asylum Procedures, March 2010, in Section VI.2.4.3.


Qurbani, Court of Justice of the European Union, C-481/13, 17 July 2014.

M.S.S. v. Belgium and Greece, Grand Chamber, European Court of Human Rights, 21 January 2011 (see Section V.1.2).

European Parliament v. Council of the European Union, European Court of Justice (Grand Chamber), C133/06, 6 May 2006.

Regina v. Secretary of State for the Home Department ex parte Adan; Regina v Secretary of State for the Home Department ex parte Aitseguer, UK House of Lords, 19 December 2000, 2001, 2 WLR, pp. 143–169.

Al-Rahal v. Minister for Immigration and Multicultural Affairs (2001) 184 ALR 698, 20 August 2001.

TI v. UK, European Court of Human Rights, 2000 European Court of Human Rights Third Section Decision as to the Admissibility of Application 43844/98 (2000) 12 IJRL, pp. 244–267.

Judgment in the cases 2 BvR 1938/93 and 2 BvR, German Constitutional Court 2315/93, 14 May 1996, BVerfGE 94, 49.



S. Legomsky, ‘Secondary Refugee Movements and the Return of Asylum Seekers to Third Countries: The Meaning of Effective Protection’, International Journal of Refugee Law, vol. 15, no. 4 (2003), pp. 567–667.

UNHCR, ‘Global Consultations in International Protection: Conclusions’, Regional Meeting Budapest, 6–7 June 2001.


R. Byrne, G. Noll, and J. Vedsted-Hansen (eds), New Asylum Countries? Migration Control and Refugee Protection in an Enlarged European Union, (The Netherlands: Kluwer Law International, 2002), pp. 5–28.

E. Neumayer, ‘Asylum Destination Choice: What Makes Some West European Countries more Attractive than Others’, European Union Politics, vol. 5, no. 2 (2004), pp. 155–180.

R. Byrne and A. Shacknove, ‘The Safe Country Notion in European Asylum Law’, Harvard Human Rights Journal, vol. 9 (1996), pp. 190–196.

S. Lavenex, ‘“Passing the Buck”: European Union Refugee Policies towards Central and Eastern Europe’, Journal of Refugee Studies, vol. 11, no. 2 (1998), pp. 126–145.

E. R. Thielemann, ‘Why Asylum Policy Harmonisation Undermines Refugee Burden-Sharing’, European Journal of Migration and Law, vol. 6 (2004), pp. 47–65.

Editor’s Note

See Section VI.2.5.2 regarding Readmission agreements.

 VI. Safe Third CountryVI. Safe Third Country

EU DocumentsEU Documents

UNHCR DocumentsUNHCR Documents