Saudi dissident forced to go to court to claim asylum in Germany
A Saudi dissident who fled to Europe was forced to go to court in Germany to gain political asylum after immigration officials sat on his case for more than 18 months.
Rasheed Alameer, a 35-year-old medical doctor who left Saudi Arabia in 2018, was finally granted refugee status in March within days of filing a legal complaint against the German government over the delay.
A court in the city of Magdeburg compelled the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees to make a decision in Alameer's case on the grounds that it had failed to act within a reasonable time frame.
Alameer told Middle East Eye he was left in a state of uncertainty by German authorities at a time when Saudi exiles were living in fear in the aftermath of the murder of Jamal Khashoggi and reported security threats against other dissidents opposed to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
'A dangerous precedent'
He said he was not aware of any other asylum seekers who'd had to wait as long in Germany for their cases to be resolved.
“Allowing this delay would have set a dangerous precedent, allowing Germany or other governments in Europe to take as long as they want to decide on asylum cases,” he said.
“I did not want this precedent to be set to avoid putting future asylum seekers, particularly those from Saudi Arabia, in such a difficult situation.
“I am happy that future asylum seekers can cite this case if they find themselves in such a position where the migration office won't deliver a decision.”
Alameer, who is originally from Jazan in southwestern Saudi Arabia and describes himself as a political dissident and activist, believes he is at risk of being tortured if he is forced to return to his homeland.
He turned to activism as a student in Saudi Arabia but said it is not safe to call for political reform from within the kingdom.
"The country needs people and movements that explicitly call and work towards political reform. But such work cannot happen from the inside otherwise you will immediately be imprisoned and tortured," he said.
While in Germany he said he had received messages from the Saudi government offering him a guarantee of security and other incentives to return. He said he had not responded to these and had shared them with the German police and security services.
Alameer said the messages were evidence that he was being pursued by the Saudi government.
The messages appear consistent with those received by other exiles at a time when Saudi authorities were seeking to lure them home in an apparent effort to silence them, and some were being contacted by security services in the US and other countries over concerns that their lives could be in danger.
In July 2018, MEE reported on the case of Prince Khaled bin Farhan, a dissident member of the Saudi royal family, who said he had been offered a seat on the private plane of a senior royal on an official visit to Germany in an attempt to entice him home.
Prince Khaled was granted political asylum within two months of arriving by the German authorities, such was their assessment of the danger of abduction.
He has was also told by German intelligence that his security outside the country could not be guaranteed, even within the EU.
Alameer flew to Europe in mid-2018 on a German visa and initially tried to claim asylum in Norway.
He was deported from Norway to Germany on 28 August 2018 because of the Dublin agreement, which requires those travelling to the European Union and EU-aligned countries to claim asylum in the country where they arrive or for which they have visas.
Alameer claimed asylum in Germany on 10 September 2018. He said the first hearing in his case took place on 2 October 2018, the same day of Khashoggi's disappearance after entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.
“The minute I walked out I heard that Khashoggi had disappeared,” Alameer recalled.
The Saudi journalist was subsequently revealed to have been killed by a murder squad in an operation which the CIA and a United Nations investigation have linked to Mohammed bin Salman.
'I feel safe'
Alameer told MEE that he had been required to report regularly to a refugee reception centre where he was technically a resident for 18 months after claiming asylum, even though he had been allowed to stay in a hotel.
At the time of his arrival, the maximum period that asylum seekers could be held or required to report to a reception centre was six months, but the German parliament extended the length of time to 18 months during 2019.
Alameer filed his court case on 8 March and was notified that he had been granted asylum on 24 March. He now has German residency status.
“So long as I am in Germany I feel safe,” he said.
A spokesperson told MEE that the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees could not comment on individual asylum cases for privacy and data protection reasons.