Six months’ time-limit to decide on applications for international protection is the law, EU law. EU member state cannot modify the implementation of an EU directive at choice

Asylum seekers cannot hang in limbo for too long. The time limit for the Migration Department to decide on an asylum application is 6 months from the date the application is received. There is no right to extend such deadline whatever arguments advanced to that end concluded today Supreme Administrative Court of Lithuania in ReLex case eA-2137-575/2023.

In cooperation with the Human Rights Monitoring Institute a complaint has been submitted on behalf of a client whose application for international protection has been put on hold beyond the six months’ time-limit indicted by law.

In assessing the arguments of the defendant, the Court stated inter alia that a letter of the Migration Department expressed a will to extend the time-limit for the examination of the application, postponing the adoption of a decision for an unspecified period of time (‘We expect that a decision on your asylum application will be taken in the third quarter of 2023’). The Court therefore rejected the appellant’s arguments that the Letter is of an informative nature and that the Court could therefore not annul it (33).

More importantly the Court underlined that the Law of the Republic of Lithuania on the Legal Status of Foreigners, which implements, inter alia, Directive 2013/32/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council on a Common Procedure for Granting and Withdrawing International Protection, states that an application for asylum shall be examined on its merits as soon as possible, but not later than within 6 months from the date of submission of the application for asylum, and if the court has issued a decision to oblige the Migration Department to examine the application for asylum anew – as soon as possible, but no later than 3 months from the day of entry into force of the court decision (37). Although the Directive provides for the possibility of extending the time limit for examining an application for asylum, the Lithuanian legislator has established more favourable conditions for asylum seekers by not providing for the possibility of extending the time limit (38) and the Government cannot rely on more flexible options of implementation.

The judgment of the Court of Justice of the European Union in Van Gend en Loos (Case 26-62) establishes the principle of direct effect of directives. EU law creates not only obligations for EU Member States but also rights for individuals directly. Individuals can therefore exercise these rights and invoke EU law before national and European courts, irrespective of the existence of a rule of national law (i.e. where there is no judicial remedy under national law). However, a directive can only have a vertical direct effect – Member States must implement directives, but a Member State cannot rely on directives against an individual (see Ratti judgment in Case 148/78).




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