Judging the Charter

The Charter in judicial practise with a special focus on the case of protection of refugees and asylum seekers

Saciri and Others

Case Number: C-79/13

Relevance of Decision

In this judgement the CJEU interpreted provisions of the Reception Directive 2003/9 in the light of Article 1 of the Charter.

 

Facts of the case

On 11 October 2010 the Saciri family lodged an asylum application with the Belgian authorities. On the same day, Belgian authorities (Fedasil) informed Saciri family that they were unable to provide reception and directed it to the competent centre for social welfare (OCMW).

Having been unable to find housing, the Saciri family turned to the private rental market but, being unable to pay the rent, it lodged an application for financial aid with the centre for social welfare. Their application was rejected on the ground that the Saciri family ought to have stayed in a reception facility managed by Fedasil.

On 10 December 2010 the Saciri family brought an application for interim measures before the Labour Court in Leuven against Fedasil and against the OCMW. By an order of 12 January 2011, the Labour Court in Leuven ordered Fedasil and the OCMW to offer the Saciri family reception facilities and to pay it an amount as financial aid respectively.

On 21 January 2011, Fedasil placed the family in a reception centre for asylum seekers.

On 14 December 2010 and 7 January 2011, the Saciri family appealed against the decision of Fedasil and the OCMW before the Labour Court in Leuven. The Court declared the action against the OCMW to be unfounded, while ordering Fedasil to pay the Saciri family the sum of EUR 2 961.27, the equivalent of three months’ minimum guaranteed income for a person with a dependent family. Fedasil appealed against that judgment before the Brussels Higher Labour Court. The Saciri family lodged a cross-appeal and sought an order that Fedasil and the OCMW pay a sum corresponding to the equivalent of the minimum guaranteed income in respect of the entire period during which the family had not been housed.

Brussels Higher Labour Court has stated that, when the reception network for asylum seekers is saturated, neither the Reception Law nor any national provision lays down a specific system enabling asylum seekers who cannot be accommodated by Fedasil to be given, within a reasonable period, housing meeting the standards laid down in Directive 2003/9. That court has stated that, where Fedasil decides not to designate a place of registration, the asylum seekers receive social assistance the amount of which does not, however, guarantee them housing, even temporarily.

Legal Questions

1. Whether Article 13(5) of Directive 2003/9 is to be interpreted as meaning that, when a Member State has opted to grant the material reception conditions in the form of financial allowances, that State is bound to award those allowances from the time of the introduction of the asylum application while ensuring that the amount of those allowances is such as to enable asylum seekers to obtain accommodation, in compliance with the conditions laid down in Articles 13(1) and (2) and 14(1), (3), (5) and (8) of that directive.

2. Whether Directive 2003/9 is to be interpreted as precluding, where the accommodation facilities specifically for asylum seekers are overloaded, the Member States from referring the asylum seekers to bodies within the general public assistance system, which are responsible for providing asylum seekers with the necessary financial aid.

Court Findings

1. The Court held that general scheme and purpose of Directive 2003/9 and the observance of fundamental rights, in particular the requirements of Article 1 of the Charter, preclude the asylum seeker from being deprived – even for a temporary period of time after the making of the application for asylum and before being actually transferred to the responsible Member State – of the protection of the minimum standards laid down by that directive

In the operative part of the judgment the Court held that Article 13(5) of Directive 2003/9 must be interpreted as meaning, where a Member State has opted to grant the material reception conditions in the form of financial allowances or vouchers, that those allowances must be provided from the time the application for asylum is made and shall be sufficient to ensure a dignified standard of living and adequate for the health of applicants and capable of ensuring their subsistence, enabling them in particular to find housing, having regard, if necessary, to the preservation of the interests of persons having specific needs.

The material reception conditions laid down in Article 14(1), (3), (5) and (8) of Directive 2003/9 do not apply to the Member States where they have opted to grant those conditions in the form of financial allowances only. Nevertheless, the amount of those allowances must be sufficient to enable minor children to be housed with their parents, so that the family unity of the asylum seekers may be maintained.


2. The Court also held that where the accommodation facilities specifically for asylum seekers are overloaded, the Member States may refer the asylum seekers to bodies within the general public assistance system, provided that that system ensures that the minimum standards laid down in Reception Directive are met.

Critical Assessment

"What obligations do Member States have to ensure that asylum-seeking families are housed adequately? The Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) has today usefully clarified the minimum standards which Member States must observe on this issue, in its judgment in Saciri. This judgment is a welcome confirmation that whatever the practical difficulties facing Member States in managing their reception for asylum-seekers, families cannot simply be left homeless or forced to live in grossly inadequate conditions by means of the refusal of support for financial assistance to obtain housing."

The CJEU secures asylum seekers' right to family housing" by Professor Steve Peers, available at: http://eulawanalysis.blogspot.com/2014/02/what-obligations-do-member-states-have.html

Weblink

Country

Europe