Withdrawal from military service in Syria establishes entitlement to refugee protection

The Court of Justice of the European Union ruled in its judgment of 19.11.2020 (C-238/19) that escape from military service in Syria is very likely to be a reason for persecution by the authorities there. In the context of the civil war in Syria, there is a strong presumption that the refusal to perform military service is linked to a ground which may give rise to a right to refugee status. In many cases, that refusal is the expression of political or religious convictions or is based on membership of a particular social group. In its statements on the causality test between the act and cause of persecution, the Court of Justice of the European Union creates scope for granting refugee status in cases of withdrawal from military service.

The case-law to date, which is based on the obligation of asylum seekers to provide evidence, is incompatible with the principles laid down by the Court and is therefore contrary to Union law. A situation which cannot be clarified (non liquet) works in the applicant's favour if the applicant provides plausible information. In cases of doubt, therefore, the authorities and courts must assume, with a view to protection, that the conditions for refugee status are met.