The European Union (EU) will now grant refugee status to those who seek asylum on the basis of religious persecution, even when applicants are still able to practice their faith in private.
The European Court of Justice had been asked to decide whether or not refugees could seek asylum on the basis of religious persecution if they had only been banned from practicing their faith in public, not in private. The court ruled that EU members must grant asylum to refugees in certain cases of severe religious freedom violations, including "a person's freedom not only to practice his faith in private circles but also to live that faith publicly."
The court stated, "It is not the public or private, or collective or individual, nature of the manifestation and practice of the religion which will determine whether a violation of the right to freedom of religion should be regarded as persecution, but the severity of the measures and sanctions adopted or liable to be adopted against the person concerned."
This ruling affirmed an administrative court's ruling in favor of two Pakistani men, who are practicing members of the Ahmadiyya sect, a minority Muslim group.
The men sought asylum in Germany in 2004, claiming Pakistan had prohibited them from publicly practicing their Islamic reformist faith. German courts originally denied the men's claim, saying they did not have adequate grounds for asylum because they could still practice their faith in private.
CT has previously reported on religious refugees' struggles to find haven in Europe as well as overall trends among 21st-century asylum seekers.