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What is INTERPOL’s policy on refugee status?

Posted by: Gherson White-Collar Crime

Am I safe to travel if I have been granted refugee status?

Individuals who have been granted refugee status in a third-party country in circumstances of a politically motivated prosecution or persecution, and who fear that they might be subject to INTERPOL measures, are increasingly asking whether they remain free to travel.

The Short Answer is exercise extreme caution before travelling

The short answer is that individuals who fear that they are subject to INTERPOL measures are always advised to exercise extreme caution before travelling. This includes those who have been granted refugee status. In some circumstances, INTERPOL may not process Red Notice and diffusions against an individual who has been granted refugee status, and/or once a member country has confirmed an individual’s status. However, nothing is guaranteed, and consideration prior to travel of sensitive enquiries with INTERPOL is often advised.

As such, expert legal advice is always recommended before any travel is undertaken. Finally, even when a Red Notice (or other measure) is removed, this does not guarantee an individual can travel freely.

Will INTERPOL process the data of individuals who have been granted refugee status?

The short answer is maybe. This is an issue that INTERPOL themselves considered as far back as 2014, when they disseminated a new policy regarding Red Notices and diffusions among its member states’ National Central Bureaus (“NCB”s).

This policy provided that in general, the processing of Red Notices and diffusions against refugees will not be allowed if the following conditions are met:

  • The status of refugee or asylum-seeker has been confirmed;
  • The notice/diffusion has been requested by the country where the individual fears persecution; and
  • The granting of the refugee status is not based on political grounds vis-à-vis the requesting country.

It should be noted that this policy is not to be applied without exception, and the term “in general” enables INTERPOL to make an exception where they deem it appropriate.

This policy has also been criticised on the basis that it does not provide an exemption to the rule that any member country NCB is notified about an individual’s request regarding what data INTERPOL hold on them (i.e. the country issuing the measure will be alerted to the fact the individual has made a request with INTERPOL).

Will INTERPOL member countries confirm that an individual has been granted refugee status and of the outcome of an asylum application?

Again, the short answer is maybe. In 2017 INTERPOL’s General Assembly adopted a resolution regarding the processing of data relating to individuals who have been granted refugee or asylum status.

As such, member states are encouraged to provide INTERPOL with confirmation that an individual has been granted refugee status and the outcome of an asylum application review. Once a member state has confirmed the asylum status of the individual, INTERPOL will delete any Notice or Diffusion for the individual from the country where they face persecution.

Alternatively, if INTERPOL is notified that an asylum request has been denied (including on the basis of an individual’s criminal background), or refugee status revoked, the individual’s data may be maintained or restored.

Practical considerations

What is INTERPOL’s policy on refugee status? Individuals who fear that they may be subject to INTERPOL measures are always recommended to exercise caution before travelling. It should never be assumed that a Red Notice will be automatically removed upon grant of asylum or refugee status. Careful enquiries with INTERPOL should always be considered before any travel is undertaken. INTERPOL is a large and busy organisation, and assuming they have coordinated with sometimes disorganised member states about every name of every person with refugee status is a risky and, in some instances, false assumption.

The example of Australian footballer, Hakeem Al-Araibi, is an important reminder. Al-Araibi held refugee status in Australia but was arrested in Thailand, as there was an outstanding INTERPOL Red Notice in his name. If he had made pre-emptive enquiries and representations to INTERPOL regarding his asylum status, then perhaps his data could have been expunged from INTERPOL and his name may not have flagged when he crossed the border.

Further, it is pertinent to remember that INTERPOL is merely a data-sharing platform. Ultimately, extradition treaties, bilateral arrangements and ad-hoc arrangements between member states separately govern extradition. Requesting the removal of data from INTERPOL and receiving confirmation that INTERPOL have expunged data from their system does not necessarily mean immunity from any of these extradition arrangements.

In practice, if you fear you are subject to an INTERPOL Red Notice and you have refugee status or you have applied for refugee status, it is strongly recommended you every take precautionary steps and seek expert legal advice before travelling anywhere. Juggling INTERPOL, asylum and extradition treaties is not a simple task and it is also not an area to take any unnecessary risks with.

How Gherson can assist you

Gherson has over 30 years of experience in assisting with all aspects of INTERPOL and Red Notice challenges, assisting with complex asylum claims, extradition requests and where the three intersect. Previously we wrote a series of blogs designed to assist those who fear they might be subject to INTERPOL measures (including a Red Notice):

If you would like to speak to us in respect of any of the issues raised in this video or about your specific circumstances, do not hesitate to contact us for advice, send us an e-mail, or alternatively, follow us on TwitterFacebook, or LinkedIn to stay-up-to-date.

The information in this blog is for general information purposes only and does not purport to be comprehensive or to provide legal advice. Whilst every effort is made to ensure the information and law is current as of the date of publication it should be stressed that, due to the passage of time, this does not necessarily reflect the present legal position. Gherson accepts no responsibility for loss which may arise from accessing or reliance on information contained in this blog. For formal advice on the current law please don’t hesitate to contact Gherson. Legal advice is only provided pursuant to a written agreement, identified as such, and signed by the client and by or on behalf of Gherson.

©Gherson 2021

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