Belgium: European court rules deportation to Sudan was unlawful

Belgium: European court rules deportation to Sudan was unlawful

The European Court of Human Rights today found that Belgium breached international law in 2017 when it deported a Sudanese man to Khartoum without determining the risks he might have faced upon return and with the cooperation of Sudanese security officials, a ruling which highlights the Belgian authorities’ failure to protect people fleeing human rights violations.

M.A. v. Belgium concerns the case of a Sudanese national who was apprehended by Belgian authorities in Brussels, detained and subsequently deported without an assessment of the risk of human rights violations upon return. In order to facilitate M.A’s return, Belgian authorities enabled Sudanese officials to meet with M.A. and he was also pressured into signing a paper acknowledging the return as “voluntary”.

Today’s ruling exposes a distressing catalogue of failures by Belgian authorities. These failures resulted in the return of a person to his country of origin in violation of international law. By cutting corners to ensure M.A’s prompt deportation to Sudan and by failing to assess the risks he would be exposed to upon return, the Belgian authorities failed their human rights obligations.

Matteo de Bellis, migration researcher at Amnesty International

“This Court decision should result in swift government action. While the Belgian authorities claim to have amended some of their practices in the years since M.A was deported, the new government needs to ensure that safeguards are in place to guarantee nobody else is returned to danger.

M.A was one of 99 Sudanese nationals detained by Belgian authorities in 2017, ten of whom were deported between October and December 2017. Amnesty International had criticized the returns in a public statement dated January 2018, extensively quoted in today’s ruling by the European Court of Human Rights. The statement criticized the forcible returns to Sudan, pointing at substantive and procedural breaches by Belgium of the principle of non-refoulement, which protects all people, whether they seek asylum or not, from being forcibly transferred to a country where they would be at real risk of serious human rights violations.

Amnesty international calls on Belgian authorities to now remedy the harm inflicted to M.A. and other Sudanese citizens who were deported in 2017.


In September 2017, in the context of large operations to identify irregular migrants, Belgian authorities detained dozens of Sudanese nationals in Brussels. In the process of forcibly removing them from the country, authorities invited and authorized Sudanese security officials to travel to Belgium, where they could interview some of them and confirm their nationality.

Between October 2017 and December 2017, Belgium returned 10 Sudanese people to Khartoum. According to testimonies, some of the returnees were ill-treated by Sudanese officials upon arrival.

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