Detention of migrants if expulsion impossible at odds with Article 5 para. 1 f ECHR

Mikolenko v. Estonia, 8 October 2009:

“59.  The Court reiterates that Article 5 § 1 (f) does not demand that detention be reasonably considered necessary, for example to prevent the individual from committing an offence or fleeing. Any deprivation of liberty under the second limb of Article 5 § 1 (f) will be justified, however, only for as long as deportation or extradition proceedings are in progress. If such proceedings are not prosecuted with due diligence, the detention will cease to be permissible under Article 5 § 1 (f) (see A. and Others v. the United Kingdom [GC], no. 3455/05, § 164, 19 February 2009, and Chahal v. the United Kingdom, 15 November 1996, § 113, Reports of Judgments and Decisions 1996‑V).

60.  The deprivation of liberty must also be “lawful”. Where the “lawfulness” of detention is in issue, including the question whether “a procedure prescribed by law” has been followed, the Convention refers essentially to national law and lays down the obligation to conform to the substantive and procedural rules of national law. Compliance with national law is not, however, sufficient: Article 5 § 1 requires in addition that any deprivation of liberty should be in keeping with the purpose of protecting the individual from arbitrariness. It is a fundamental principle that no detention which is arbitrary can be compatible with Article 5 § 1 and the notion of “arbitrariness” in Article 5 § 1 extends beyond lack of conformity with national law, so that a deprivation of liberty may be lawful in terms of domestic law but still arbitrary and thus contrary to the Convention (see Saadi, cited above, § 67). To avoid being branded as arbitrary, detention under Article 5 § 1 (f) must be carried out in good faith; it must be closely connected to the ground of detention relied on by the Government; the place and conditions of detention should be appropriate; and the length of the detention should not exceed that reasonably required for the purpose pursued (see A. and Others v. the United Kingdom, cited above, § 164, and, mutatis mutandis, Saadi, cited above, § 74).

61.  As concerns the compliance of the applicant’s detention with national law in the present case, the Court observes that the domestic courts, in extending his detention every two months, found it lawful. The Court further observes that sections 23 and 25 of the Obligation to Leave and Prohibition of Entry Act, relied on by the domestic authorities, provided a legal basis for such detention.

62.  However, as noted above, compliance with domestic law is not in itself sufficient to establish lack of arbitrariness and further elements, referred to in paragraph 60 above, must be examined in this context. One of these elements is the length of the detention, which should not exceed that reasonably required for the purpose pursued.

63.  The court reiterates that deprivation of liberty under Article 5 § 1 (f) is justified only for as long as deportation proceedings are being conducted. It follows that if such proceedings are not being prosecuted with due diligence, the detention will cease to be justified under this subparagraph (see, mutatis mutandis, Quinn v. France, 22 March 1995, § 48, Series A no. 311).

64.  The Court observes that the applicant’s detention with a view to expulsion was extraordinarily long. He was detained for more than three years and eleven months. While in the beginning of his detention the domestic authorities took steps to have documents issued to him, it must have become clear quite soon that these attempts were bound to fail as the applicant refused to co-operate and the Russian authorities were not prepared to issue him documents in the absence of his signed application, or to accept a temporary travel document the Estonian authorities were ready to issue. Indeed, the Russian authorities had made their position clear in both respects by as early as June 2004. Thereafter, although the Estonian authorities took repeated steps to solve the situation, there were also considerable periods of inactivity. In particular, the Court has been provided with no information on whether any steps with a view to the applicant’s deportation were taken from August 2004 to March 2006 (see paragraphs 18 to 33 above).

65.  What is more, the applicant’s expulsion had become virtually impossible as for all practical purposes it required his co-operation, which he was not willing to give. While it is true that States enjoy an “undeniable sovereign right to control aliens’ entry into and residence in their territory” (see, for example, Saadi, cited above, § 64, with further references), the aliens’ detention in this context is nevertheless only permissible under Article 5 § 1 (f) if action is being taken with a view to their deportation. The Court considers that in the present case the applicant’s further detention cannot be said to have been effected with a view to his deportation as this was no longer feasible.

66.  It is true that at some point the Estonian authorities could legitimately have expected that the applicant could be removed on the basis of the EU-Russia readmission agreement once it entered into force, as under this agreement the Russian authorities were required to issue travel documents to persons to be readmitted irrespective of their will. However, the agreement entered into force only on 1 June 2007, which was about three years and seven months after the applicant was placed in detention. In the Court’s opinion the applicant’s detention for such a long time even if the conditions of detention as such were adequate could not be justified by an expected change in the legal circumstances.

67.  The Court also notes that after the applicant’s release on 9 October 2007 he was informed that he still had to comply with the order to leave. He was obliged to report to the Board at regular intervals (see paragraph 35 above). Thus, the authorities in fact had at their disposal measures other than the applicant’s protracted detention in the deportation centre in the absence of any immediate prospect of his expulsion.

68.  The foregoing considerations are sufficient to enable the Court to conclude that the grounds for the applicant’s detention – action taken with a view to his deportation – did not remain valid for the whole period of his detention due to the lack of a realistic prospect of his expulsion and the domestic authorities’ failure to conduct the proceedings with due diligence.

There has accordingly been a violation of Article 5 § 1 of the Convention.”

Louled Massoud v. Malta, 27 July 2010:

“63.   The Court notes that the applicant’s detention in prison fell initially under Article 5 § 1 (c), namely, the lawful arrest or detention of a person effected for the purpose of bringing him before the competent legal authority on reasonable suspicion of having committed an offence. It subsequently fell under sub-paragraph (a), namely, the lawful detention of a person after conviction by a competent court. These periods do not raise an issue before the Court.

64.  After he served his sentence, the applicant was transferred to a detention centre and detained “with a view to deportation” within the meaning of Article 5 § 1 (f). It follows that the period of detention to be considered for the purposes of this complaint is that from 27 June 2007, the date when the applicant was placed in a detention centre pending the processing of his asylum claim, to 6 January 2009, when he was released. The duration of the detention therefore amounted to eighteen months and nine days. The Court notes that the entire duration of the detention was subsequent to the rejection of his asylum claim at first instance, on 24 April 2007, and that the final decision on his asylum claim was delivered three weeks after the commencement of his detention in the detention centre.

65.  The Court must determine whether the duration of the detention was excessive and whether the authorities pursued the deportation proceedings with due diligence.

66.  The Court observes that the delay in the present case is not as striking as that in other cases (see Chahal, cited above, and Raza v. Bulgaria, no. 31465/08, 11 February 2010, where the duration was of more than three and two and a half years respectively). However, the delay was not due to the need to wait for the courts to determine a legal challenge, the applicant’s asylum claim having been determined before his detention. Although the identity and nationality of the applicant had been determined, the Government submitted that repatriation had been difficult as the applicant was undocumented, the Algerian authorities had refused to issue the relevant documents and the applicant had been unwilling to cooperate. The Court notes that the Government have not submitted any details as to the procedures initiated save that the police had attempted to obtain such documents through the intervention of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. They have not submitted information about the frequency of such requests or whether any other avenues were explored. The Court considers that while it is true that the Maltese authorities could not compel the issuing of such a document, there is no indication in the Government’s observations that they pursued the matter vigorously or endeavoured entering into negotiations with the Algerian authorities with a view to expediting its delivery (see Raza v. Bulgaria, cited above, § 73; Tabesh v. Greece, no. 8256/07, § 56, 26 November 2009; and, conversely, Agnissan v. Denmark (dec.), no 39964/98, 4 October 2001).

67.  The Government blamed the applicant for his unwillingness to cooperate. However, assuming the Government were right in their allegation, the Court considers that it must have become clear quite early on that the attempts to repatriate him were bound to fail as the applicant had refused to cooperate and/or the Algerian authorities had not been prepared to issue him documents. Detention cannot be said to have been effected with a view to his deportation if this was no longer feasible (see Mikolenko v. Estonia, no. 10664/05, §§ 64-65, 8 October 2009). Indeed, the Court notes that to date, a year and a half after his release, the applicant is still in Malta.

68.  Moreover, the Court finds it hard to conceive that in a small island like Malta, where escape by sea without endangering one’s life is unlikely and fleeing by air is subject to strict control, the authorities could not have had at their disposal measures other than the applicant’s protracted detention to secure an eventual removal in the absence of any immediate prospect of his expulsion.

69.  In the light of the above, the Court has grave doubts as to whether the grounds for the applicant’s detention – action taken with a view to his deportation – remained valid for the whole period of his detention, namely, more than eighteen months following the rejection of his asylum claim, owing to the probable lack of a realistic prospect of his expulsion and the possible failure of the domestic authorities to conduct the proceedings with due diligence.

70.  In such circumstances the Court will move on to determine whether the detention was lawful under national law, effected “in accordance with a procedure prescribed by law” and, in particular, whether there existed sufficient guarantees against arbitrariness.

71.  The Court is ready to accept that notwithstanding the various policies, the accessibility and precision of which are doubtful, the applicant’s detention was based on Articles 5 and 14 of the Immigration Act. However, the Court must consider whether Maltese law guaranteed a particular procedure to be followed which could offer safeguards against arbitrariness. The Court primarily notes that the Immigration Act applied no limit to detention and that the Government policies have no legal force. In consequence, the applicant was subject to an indeterminate period of detention (see, mutatis mutandis, Muminov v. Russia, no. 42502/06, § 122, 11 December 2008). In such circumstances the necessity of procedural safeguards becomes decisive. However, the Court has already established that the applicant did not have any effective remedy by which to contest the lawfulness and length of his detention (see paragraphs 46-47 above), and the Government have not pointed to any other normative or practical safeguard. It follows that the Maltese legal system did not provide for a procedure capable of avoiding the risk of arbitrary detention pending deportation (see, mutatis mutandis, Soldatenko v. Ukraine, no. 2440/07, § 114, 23 October 2008).

72.  In these circumstances the Court finds it unnecessary to examine the applicant’s conditions of detention, which it reiterates must be compatible with the purposes of detention.

73.  The foregoing considerations are sufficient to enable the Court to conclude that the national system failed to protect the applicant from arbitrary detention, and his prolonged detention cannot be considered to have been “lawful” for the purposes of Article 5 of the Convention.

74.  There has accordingly been a violation of Article 5 § 1 of the Convention.”

C.D. et autres c. Grèce, 19 December 2013:

“72.  En outre, en ce qui concerne la durée de la détention, la Cour rappelle que, dans le contexte de l’article 5 § 1 f), seul le déroulement de la procédure d’expulsion justifie la privation de liberté fondée sur cette disposition et que, si la procédure n’est pas menée avec la diligence requise, la détention cesse d’être justifiée (Chahal, précité, § 113 ; Gebremedhin [Gaberamadhien] c. France, no 25389/05, § 74, CEDH 2007‑II). En l’espèce, la Cour note que la détention des requérants, ordonnée en vue de leur expulsion, n’était pas possible dans l’immédiat en raison des démarches administratives nécessaires à l’égard de chacun d’entre eux pour assurer leur expulsion. Comme il ressort du dossier, la durée de la détention de chaque requérant dépendait de la spécificité de son cas.

73.  Ainsi, en ce qui concerne les requérants identifiés sous les nos 4, 6 et 8, ils ont été transférés en Turquie les 19 et 14 janvier 2010 respectivement, en vertu du Protocole de réadmission signé entre la Grèce et la Turquie. Etant donné que ces requérants avaient été mis en détention les 26 novembre et 20 octobre 2009 respectivement, la Cour estime qu’un délai de deux à trois mois environ ne peut pas être considéré comme excessif pour l’accomplissement des formalités administratives entre les autorités grecques et turques dans ce but. En ce qui concerne les autres requérants, les autorités internes n’ont pas fait preuve d’une approche uniforme à leur égard mais ont suivi la procédure pertinente dans chaque cas spécifique, ce qui a entraîné des répercussions diverses mais raisonnables sur la durée de leur détention. Ainsi, à titre d’exemple, les requérants identifiés sous les nos 1 et 7 ont été expulsés les 25 juin et 26 mars 2010 respectivement, lorsque le consulat de leur pays d’origine leur a délivré les documents de voyage nécessaires. En outre, en ce qui concerne les cas où le consulat d’Irak à Athènes n’a pas délivré certains documents aux intéressés, comme dans le cas des requérants identifiés sous les nos 2 et 5, la chambre du tribunal correctionnel compétent a ordonné le 30 août 2010 leur élargissement avec imposition de mesures restrictives de liberté moins strictes, en l’occurrence une simple obligation de se présenter une fois par mois au commissariat de police de leur lieu de résidence. De façon générale, la Cour estime raisonnable un prolongement de la durée de détention des requérants ayant été condamnés le 5 février 2010 par le jugement no 175/2010 du tribunal correctionnel de Rodopi, du fait que la procédure relative à leur expulsion a été arrêtée pour mettre en œuvre le processus d’expulsion judiciaire. En somme, la Cour considère que pendant la période en cause, les autorités nationales n’ont pas fait preuve de passivité dans le déroulement de la procédure d’expulsion des requérants (voir, en ce sens, Agnissan c. Danemark (déc.), no 39964/98, 4 octobre 2001).

74.  En dernier lieu, ayant conclu à une violation de l’article 3 en raison des conditions de détention dans le centre de rétention de Venna, la Cour n’estime pas nécessaire de se placer une fois de plus sur ce terrain sous l’angle de l’article 5 § 1 f) (voir Horshill c. Grèce, no 70427/11, § 65, 1er août 2013).

Par conséquent, il n’y pas eu violation de l’article 5 § 1 de la Convention.”

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University of Essex

Völkerrechtsblog

Der Blog des Arbeitskreises junger Völkerrechtswissenschaftler*innen

blogdroiteuropéen

blogguer différemment sur le droit européen

All for National Archaeological Museum Athens

The official blog of the museum with snapshots from its daily life

East Ethnia

Balkan politics and academics

Inforrm's Blog

The International Forum for Responsible Media Blog

ΣΥΓΧΡΟΝΑ ΘΕΜΑΤΑ

Τριμηνιαία Έκδοση Επιστημονικού Προβληματισμού και Παιδείας

UK Constitutional Law Association

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The most influential portal on European integration in the Western Balkans

LancsLaw

The official blog of Lancaster University Law School

A Gael in Greece

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