Main Debates

Does subsidiary protection threaten or undermine the 1951 Geneva Convention?

Are the needs of subsidiary protection beneficiaries less pressing or durable than those of refugees?

Is there a justification for giving different levels of entitlements to refugees and subsidiary protection beneficiaries?

How does the protection afforded by Article 15(c) of the Qualification Directive, which applies to people fleeing indiscriminate violence in situations of armed conflict, differ from that afforded by Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights?

Main Points

Relationship between Directive and refugee determination process

Lesser rights under the EC subsidiary protection regime compared with 1951 Geneva Convention rights

The relationship between Article 15(c) of the Qualification Directive and Article 3 ECHR.

EU Documents

European Union, ’Directive 2011/95/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 13 December 2011 on standards for the qualification of third-country nationals or stateless persons as beneficiaries of international protection, for a uniform status for refugees or for persons eligible for subsidiary protection, and for the content of the protection granted (recast)’, OJ L 339, 20 December 2011.

European Commission, ’Report from the Commission to the European Parliament and the Council on the Application of Directive 2004/EC/EC of 29 April 2004’, COM (2010) 314 final, 16 June 2010.

UNHCR Documents

UNHCR, ’Safe at Last? Law and practice in selected EU Member States with respect to asylum-seekers fleeing indiscriminate violence’, 2011.

UNHCR, ’Statement on subsidiary protection under the EC Qualification Directive for people threatened by indiscriminate violence (Art 15(c))’, 2008.

See also the UNHCR documents in Section VI.2.2.1.


Aboubacar Diakite v Commissaire général aux réfugiés et aux apatrides, C-285/12, Court of Justice of the European Union, 30 January 2014.

K.A.B. v Sweden, Application no. 886/11, European Court of Human Rights, 5 September 2013.


Sufi and Elmi v United Kingdom,  Application nos. 8319/07 and 11449/07, European Court of Human Rights, 28 June 2011.

HM & Others (Art 15(c) ) (Iraq), CG [2010] UKUT 331.


M. and N. Elgafaji v. Staatssecretaris van Justitie, C-465/07, 17 February 2009.



H. Battjes, ‘Subsidiary Protection and Reduced rights’, in K. Zwaan (ed.) The Qualification Directive: Central Themes, Problem Issues, and Implementation in Selected Member States (Nijmegen: Wolf Legal Publishers, 2007), pp. 49–55.

ECRE, Complementary Protection in Europe, 29 July 2009.

H. Lambert, ‘The Next Frontier: Expanding Protection in Europe for Victims of Armed Conflict and Indiscriminate Violence’, International Journal of Law Review, vol. 25, no. 2 (2013), pp. 207-234.

R. Errera, ‘The CJEU and Subsidiary Protection: Reflections on Elgafaji and After’, International Journal of Law Review, vol. 23, no. 1 (2011), pp. 93-112.

P. Tiedemann, ‘Subsidiary Protection and the Function of Article 15(c) of the Qualification Directive’, Refugee Survey Quarterly, vol. 31, no. 3 (2012), pp. 123-138.


M. Gil-Bazo, ‘Refugee Status, Subsidiary Protection, and the Right to be Granted Asylum under EC law’, Research paper No. 136, UNHCR, November 2006.

G. Noll, ‘International Protection Obligations and the Definition of Subsidiary Protection in the EU Qualification Directive’, in C. Dias Urbano de Sousa and P. De Bruycker (eds), The Emergence of a European Asylum Policy (Brussels: Bruylant, 2004), pp. 183–194.

Editor’s Note

See Section II.3.2 about other forms and instruments of protection after the 1951 Convention.

 VI.2.2.2 Subsidiary ProtectionVI.2.2.2 Subsidiary Protection

UNHCR DocumentsUNHCR Documents