Concept of safe third country (International Humanitarian Law) [Ro.: țară terță sigură, Fr.: pays tiers sûr] = In international law, this concept is founded on the notion that States would be obliged to allow refugees to seek asylum in order to respect the principle of non-refoulement (the forcible return of refugees or asylum seekers to a country where they are liable to be subjected to persecution) but its granting would be a discretionary act of the State rather than a right of the individual to receive it. A safe third country is the one through which an asylum seeker passes while on her way to a country of destination from a country of alleged persecution. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is responsible for ensuring that the Refugee Convention is followed, thus the countries should consult with the refugee agency before changing their asylum laws.

Principle of - [De.: Prinzip von -, Fr.: principe  de - ] = In EU law, the principle of “safe third country” is in close relation with the one called “first country of asylum”, being the central point of the Dublin Regulation, therefore it means that a country can reject a person’s asylum application if the protection is already granted by another country with which the applicant has a connection, seeking to avoid in this way the “asylum shopping”. According to the Asylum Procedures Directive, a third country can only be designated as a safe third country if it fulfills the following  four conditions: (a) life and liberty are not threatened on account of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion;  (b) the principle of non-refoulement in accordance with the Geneva Convention is respected; (c) the prohibition of removal, in violation of the right to freedom from torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment as laid down in international law, is respected;  (d) the possibility exists to request refugee status and, if found to be a refugee, to receive protection in accordance with the Geneva Convention.


Useful links

Legislation - REGULATION (EU) No 604/2013 OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL of 26 June 2013 establishing the criteria and mechanisms for determining the Member State responsible for examining an application for international protection lodged in one of the Member States by a third-country national or a stateless person [English] - Directive 2013/32/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 26 June 2013 on common procedures for granting and withdrawing international protection [English]

Case Law – CJEU, Case C-133/06, European Parliament v Council of the European Union, 2008 – CJEU, Case C-472/13, Andre Lawrence Shepherd v Bundesrepublik Deutschland, 2015 – CJEU, Case C-348/16, Moussa Sacko v Commissione Territoriale per il riconoscimento della protezione internazionale di Milano, 2017

Organisations and associations -European Database of Asylum Law (EDAL : online database co-ordinated by the European Council on Refugees and Exiles (ECRE) and a compilation of summaries of refugee and asylum case law from the courts of 20 European states, the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) and the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) (English) -The UN Refugee Agency (English) -Asylum Information Database (English)

Online publications  Gil-Bazo M.-T., 2015, The safe third country concept in international agreements on refugee protection, Assessing state practice, Netherlands Quarterly of Human Rights, Vol.33/1 [English] De Haas, H., Natter, K., Vezzoli, S., 2016, Growing Restrictiveness or Changing Selection? The Nature and Evolution of Migration Policies, International Migration Review Ripoll Servent, A., Trauner, F., 2014, Do supranational EU institutions make a difference? EU asylum law before and after ‘communitarization’, Journal of European Public Policy, 21(8), pp. 1142-1162


Clayton, G., 2016, Textbook on Immigration and Asylum Law, 7th edition, UK, Oxford: Oxford University Press [English]

Francesco, C., 2015, Asylum Law in the European Union, UK, Abingdon: Routlegde, [English] 

Velluti, S., 2014, Reforming the common European asylum system - legislative developments and judicial activism of the European Courts, Germany, Berlin: Springer-Verlag [English]


by Mădălina Enea