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My friend without visa or any documents wants to use blablacar to get from Zagreb to claim asylum in Germany. Does he need to show the driver his passport, and is this a relatively safe and cheap method?

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    They have to claim asylum in Croatia, they can't claim it in Germany (due to the Safe Third Country concept Section 26a(2) Asylum Act.. This explains the concept Jun 17, 2023 at 12:56
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    @NicolasFormichella that's how it's supposed to work, not how it actually works.
    – phoog
    Jun 18, 2023 at 7:40
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    "safe" in what sense? There's a risk of harm in an accident or as the victim of a criminal; there's a risk of being checked by police or border officers; and there's a risk of German authorities discovering his route and therefore sending him back to Croatia or some other country. Are you asking about any of these in particular?
    – phoog
    Jun 18, 2023 at 8:22
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    @phoog I'm not familiar with the exact proceedings, but AFAIU if found out, as per Dublin Convention (EC 604/2013) they will be returned to Croatia for processing. I imagine "How did you get to Germany" is a question they will be asked, and as Germany lacks any land borders with non-Schengen countries it may be a difficult task to convince them that they have the right to seek asylum in Germany. Doing this would only extend their time waiting to be processed.
    – ave
    Jun 18, 2023 at 16:24
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    A word of warning - Austria is actively still checking entries from Slovenia (a border which your friend will have to cross between Zagreb and Germany) with explicit reasoning of looking for refugees. This will be a problem if your friend has no documents.
    – Mavrik
    Jun 19, 2023 at 9:22

4 Answers 4

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My friend without visa or any documents wants to use blablacar to get from Zagreb to claim asylum in Germany

They have to claim asylum in Croatia

This is due to the Safe third-country principle :

The safe third country concept is applied in the context of international protection of refugees and asylum-seekers. It refers to any country that provides protection to those seeking safety in accordance with the Geneva Convention, applies the principles of international law with regards to refugees, and guarantees the prohibition of removal to the territory of a country where s/he would be exposed to the death penalty, torture, inhuman treatment, or punishment. Thus, a person arriving from a safe third country who seeks asylum in a state applying this concept (e.g., a person from Norway seeking asylum in Sweden) might find his/her application for international protection rejected as inadmissible.

It is important to mention that the safe third country concept can serve as the grounds for inadmissibility even if the applicant only stayed or traveled there for a short period but sufficient time to have the opportunity to request effective protection.

Which is implemented in German law

(1) Any foreigner who has entered the federal territory from a third country within the meaning of Article 16a (2), first sentence of the Basic Law (safe third country) cannot invoke Article 16a (1) of the Basic Law. He shall not be granted asylum. The first sentence above shall not apply if

  1. the foreigner held a residence title for the Federal Republic of Germany at the time he entered the safe third country,

  2. the Federal Republic of Germany is responsible for processing an asylum application based on European Community law or an international treaty with the safe third country, or if

  3. the foreigner has not been refused entry or removed on account of an order pursuant to Section 18 (4) no. 2.

(2) In addition to the Member States of the European Union, safe third countries are those listed in Annex I.

(3) The Federal Government shall resolve by statutory instrument without the consent of the Bundesrat that a country listed in Annex I is no longer deemed a safe third country if changes in its legal or political situation give reason to believe that the requirements mentioned in Article 16a (2), first sentence of the Basic Law have ceased to exist. The instrument shall expire no later than six months after it entered into force.

Croatia is an EU Member, as are Slovenia and Austria

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    Anybody can obviously claim to have their status recognised wherever they are. The notion that they would “have to” do anything else does not have any basis, certainly in EU or international law. Germany has historically been pushing this safe third country concept for a long time (even before the Dublin system it inspired) but it just means Germany intends to treat their demand in a certain way. And how it plays out in practice after that depends on a lot of other details.
    – Relaxed
    Jun 17, 2023 at 20:55
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    @Relaxed I think you misunderstand the concept. Anyone can (physically) attempt to cross the border from a Safe Third Country (Croatia) to another country (Germany) before they claim asylum. But the STC system means that Germany will a) deny entry to the person if they are stopped at the border b) immediately deny the asylum claim c) return the person to Croatia. Jun 18, 2023 at 18:08
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    @DJClayworth I don't think so, my point is indeed that the whole concept hinges on forcing Croatia to take back the person, which typically happens after they have lodged (or been forced to lodge) an application to be recognised as refugee. If and when an EU country manages that (Dublin system back when it still worked, agreement with Turkey or Libyan warlords) then chances of securing a long-term status is severely diminished in that EU country. When they don't, the notion that you “have to” apply here or there is entirely theoretical and legally debatable.
    – Relaxed
    Jun 19, 2023 at 12:27
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    Thankfully the immorality of the Dublin regulations has frequently proved impossible to impose in practice. See, for example: infomigrants.net/en/post/46133/… Jun 19, 2023 at 18:06
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    May I add I am not entirely convinced that Croatia, or parts of it within 10km of the Bosnian border, is safe for refugees. I was hiking in a fairly remote part of the forest and stopped by a group of 3 massive guys in an unmarked SUV who were absolutely full of themselves in their role as some kind of anti-migrant crack squad. Maybe they were temporary auxiliary police. Their role was 100% migrant-hunting. They seemed not fully professional, and I have no doubt they would have been ready to drive a refugee back to the border, or to do worse than that if they found the refugee a second time!
    – novice
    Jun 22, 2023 at 18:45
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Does he need to show the driver his passport

Blabla car offers to verify IDs and encourages drivers to only accept international passengers with a a verified ID. It's unlikely that your friend would find a ride without ID

and is this a relatively safe

Depends on what you mean "safe". While there are no mandatory border controls, they sure can be controls and than both your friend AND the driver can be in a world of pain.

Here is a cautionary tale https://www.euronews.com/2018/09/04/italian-jailed-and-fined-after-unwittingly-driving-migrants-across-border-with-blablacar . That's why any driver would be really stupid to accept an international passenger without a verified ID.

Look, I feel for your friend, but they are trying to do something that most likely is illegal and that's never a good idea. For better or for worse, they need to follow the asylum rules that currently apply to them at their current location. They could try to present themselves to the German embassy in Zagreb (Ulica grada Vukovara 64, 10000 Zagreb) but whether this has any chances of success depends on your friend's details and it's not risk-free either.

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    but whether this has any chances of success => I'm willing to bet the odds of success to be less than 1 in a million. Croatia is a perfectly safe country where millions of Germans vacation every year.
    – JonathanReez
    Jun 17, 2023 at 13:44
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    It certainly isn't illegal for a refugee to cross a border irregularly. In practice, the likelihood of relocation or success when applying at an embassy is nil. I also find it hard to believe most drivers check ID on BlaBlaCar. This certainly hasn't been my experience (and the ass-covering language about doing it has been in place for years).
    – Relaxed
    Jun 17, 2023 at 20:58
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    @JonathanReez-onstrike That's completely irrelevant. What it really depends on is whether it's possible to force Croatia to accept to take back the person in question with two hurdles: Croatian government policies on this, registration of migrants, etc. and German courts evaluation of the situation of migrants in the country (as an example, Greece is a very nice country for European tourists but many courts have long banned forced return to the country).
    – Relaxed
    Jun 17, 2023 at 21:01
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    @Relaxed also as I understand it, "not illegal for a refugee to cross a border irregularly" is an oversimplification. The convention protects refugees from penalties for unlawful entry or presence without purporting to nullify the unlawfulness. Further, this protection applies to those who "[come] directly from a territory where their life or freedom was threatened" and "present themselves without delay to the authorities and show good cause for their illegal entry or presence." There's a lot of room for interpretation here, but there's a reasonable argument that it doesn't apply in this case.
    – phoog
    Jun 18, 2023 at 8:32
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    @Harper-ReinstateMonica It isn't really for you to delete large parts of other people's answers Yeah, that's why I am commenting thus giving the answerers a chance to improve their answers and for the benefits of other readers. The same goes for erroneous comments. But I don't think the fact that some past answers and comments contain erroneous and irrelevant commentary justifies using the answer box to give a précis of refugee law when I actually think this Q&A should stay well clear from it.
    – Relaxed
    Jun 20, 2023 at 20:29
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ID is not required for Blablacar, but your friend will have an easier time finding rides if they verify their profile by adding photo ID. The platform itself does not try to check visas etc, although there's always a risk that you get stopped by police for some reason. (Of course, this applies to trains and buses too.)

It's safer than hitchhiking, since at least there's a record of who you're driving with, but also more expensive, since you're expected to pay.

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    But if "safety" here refers to the risk that the asylum claim would be denied because of German authorities' discovery that the applicant had traveled from Croatia by road, traditional hitchhiking might be preferable precisely because of the relative lack of records.
    – phoog
    Jun 18, 2023 at 9:27
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    @phoog I don't think that's true. If the asylum claim is legitimate it doesn't matter how the person got there. Jun 18, 2023 at 18:10
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    @DJClayworth "asylum claim denied" is perhaps insufficiently precise. If I understand the Dublin agreement correctly (which I quite possibly do not as I haven't read it or followed its implementation), if Germany recognizes an asylum claimant as a refugee but knows that the person traveled through Croatia, they have the option of requiring Croatia to handle the claim. If they don't know how the person got to Germany then they obviously can't require any other country to process the claim.
    – phoog
    Jun 19, 2023 at 12:58
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    @phoog That's a good point. Jun 19, 2023 at 21:07
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The comments about entry into Germany/using BlaBla car without a Visa or proper ID being illegal are rather missing the point of applying for asylum - entry via normal avenues is often impossible for asylum seekers (e.g. you can't use "seeking asylum" as a justification for a visa application to the UK), but they are protected from prosecution under certain conditions for illegal entry by the 1951 Refugee Convention, which all EU states are signatories to:

Article 31

refugees unlawfully in the country of refuge

  1. The Contracting States shall not impose penalties, on account of their illegal entry or presence, on refugees who, coming directly from a territory where their life or freedom was threatened in the sense of article 1, enter or are present in their territory without authorization, provided they present themselves without delay to the authorities and show good cause for their illegal entry or presence.
  2. The Contracting States shall not apply to the movements of such refu- gees restrictions other than those which are necessary and such restrictions shall only be applied until their status in the country is regularized or they obtain admission into another country. The Contracting States shall allow such refugees a reasonable period and all the necessary facilities to obtain admission into another country.

Whether or not moving from Croatia to Germany would actually allow them to successfully claim asylum in Germany is another matter.

Two key requirements on the refugee are that they "present themselves without delay" to the authorities (easy enough) and that they are "coming directly" from where they were threatened. The exact meaning of the second is somewhat disputed but see section 3 here for the UNHCR's view. In the case of Germany, extensive information is available here, they even have a section on transfers to Croatia:

Suspension of transfers and individualised guarantees for specific Member States

Croatia: Several administrative courts have halted Dublin transfers > to Croatia, referring to illegal push-backs of asylum seekers to Bosnia Herzegovina and Serbia and police violence against asylum seekers, while other courts see no danger of push backs for returnees from Germany (for an overview see tables above and below). With a total of 95 transfers compared to 4,657 outgoing requests and 3,276 cases accepted by Croatia, the ratio of transfers to requests was much lower than the average of all member states.

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  • Each country is free to decide on their conditions of granting asylum but "coming directly" is usually interpreted as "not having lived for extended periods in another country" rather than "entering from the state prosecuting them and not crossing any other countries on their way". But the problem itself is obvious: most migrants want to seek asylum in a few central countries, not in those right around the perimeter of the EU.
    – Gábor
    Jun 20, 2023 at 18:33
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    @Gábor ""coming directly" is usually interpreted as "not having lived for extended periods in another country"": that is precisely the point made in the document linked under the text "section 3 here" in this answer. (It is a research briefing of the House of Commons Library, but section 3 includes a fairly neutral summary of UNHCR's position.) I have to say this reminds me a bit of the resettling of refugees in the US and Canada, where they're typically dropped in small cities such as Calgary and Jacksonville. Most move away promptly, internal movement being unrestricted, unlike in the EU.
    – phoog
    Jun 22, 2023 at 7:11
  • "comments about entry into Germany/using BlaBla car without a Visa or proper ID being illegal are rather missing the point": this is true, but there is a closely related point that is of significant concern, which is the internal-border "pushbacks" wherein a Schengen state examines documents at an internal border and refuses to allow those who lack proper documents to enter. If you can't get to Germany from Croatia you will be unable to seek asylum in Germany.
    – phoog
    Jun 22, 2023 at 7:15

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