Foundation for Access to Rights - FAR successfully appealed in court against the decision of the Council of Ministers of 16 November 2022, on the basis of which Ukrainian refugees with temporary protection are accommodated in a distribution centre of the Ministry of Interior in the town of Elhovo and the provision of food was immediately terminated, with no alternative provided. FAR appealed against this decision (https://bit.ly/izhranvane), arguing that it is unlawful and contrary to the legal instruments of international and EU law, which protect the human dignity of people fleeing war.
On 20 December 2022, The Supreme Administrative Court (SAC) upheld FAR’s request and determined that the provision of food to Ukrainian refugees accommodated under the Humanitarian Assistance Programme should be restored. SAC’s ruling stopps the implementation of the decision of the Council of Ministers, and although the determination of the Court is not final, it must be implemented immediately. In practice, this means that the authorities should immediately resume the provision of food to Ukrainian refugees under the terms and conditions that were in force before the changes introduced by the contested decision.
The SAC agreed with FAR's argument that the measures in the Council of Ministers' decision create a real danger that the people who are left without food would suffer significant and irreparable harm. According to the Court, the termination of food provision, the extension of the time of accommodation in the distribution centre to 30 days, and the establishment of a main distribution centre in the town of Elhovo, where there is also no requirement to provide food, are three elements of the decision which, taken together, put the lives and health of the accommodated refugees at risk. In addition, the Court notes that reception centres generally lack adequate facilities for the self-preparation or even the purchasing of food. On the basis of this analysis, SAC concludes that the implementation of the contested decision should be stopped during the proceedings in order to avoid irreparable harm to the Ukrainian nationals concerned.
As a next step in its analysis, SAC assesses the balance between the public interest and the interest of the persons concerned. On the one hand, the Court holds that there is a public interest in limiting the spending on admitted refugees. This public interest, however, is counterbalanced by "both the humanitarian interest of society as a whole in empathizing with the fate of refugees, as well as the private interest of the refugees themselves in securing normal living conditions in the country in which they have chosen to reside because of the conditions in their country." In conclusion, SAC holds that the danger of significant or irreparable harm to vulnerable persons outweighs the interest in limiting the spending on the provision of food to refugees.