Safe Third Countries: European Developments

Achermann, Alberto; Gattiker, Mario (1995). Safe Third Countries: European Developments. International journal of refugee law, 7(1), pp. 19-38. Oxford University Press 10.1093/ijrl/7.1.19

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This article touches on an important aspect of Western European asylum policy. Whenever possible, countries try to send back asylum seekers to so-called ‘safe third countries’. The existence of a ‘safe third country’ results in the asylum seeker being refused entry, in expulsion during the asylum procedure or in refusal of the asylum application. However, the principle only works if the asylum seekers or refugees can actually be sent back to third countries. Both the Dublin Convention and the Schengen Agreement offer certain possibilities. At present, European countries are trying to conclude readmission agreements with as many third countries as possible. This article deals in particular with the multilateral Schengen-Poland Agreement and with the treaty between Switzerland and Germany, considered as an example of a modern bilateral readmission agreement. There are limits, however, to the expulsion of asylum seekers to third countries. In particular, the 1951 Convention and the ECHR demand that a certain minimum standard be met. Furthermore, in the area of ‘soft law’, the conclusions of the UNHCR Executive Committee must be observed. The authors examine the practical situation in certain European countries (Germany, France, Austria and Switzerland) and show to what extent the third country principle plays a role in national legislation and practice. They conclude with some remarks about the responsibilities of the host States, so-called safety in third or fourth States and die relationship between the readmission agreements and conventions governing State responsibility for examining asylum applications (Dublin and Schengen).

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


02 Faculty of Law > Department of Public Law > Institute of Public Law

UniBE Contributor:

Achermann, Alberto


300 Social sciences, sociology & anthropology > 340 Law




Oxford University Press




Marceline Brodmann

Date Deposited:

24 Sep 2020 11:57

Last Modified:

05 Dec 2022 15:13

Publisher DOI:





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