France condemned for the living conditions of asylum seekers

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It’s a first. In a judgment given on Thursday 2 July, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) condemns France for the “Inhuman and degrading living conditions” of three adult asylum seekers forced to live ” in the street “ and “Deprived of means of subsistence”.

→ REPORTAGE. Syrian asylum seekers sleep in the street in Cayenne

“It can be a game-changer for thousands of people, believes Nicolas Hervieu, lecturer in law at Sciences-Po. If the ECHR has already condemned other countries for depriving asylum seekers of minimum means of subsistence, such as Greece, Italy or Belgium, and did so once in France concerning a minor, it is the first time it has done so for adult asylum seekers. “

The facts date back to 2013. Five asylum seekers, Afghan, Russian, Iranian or even Georgian, file a complaint because they believe they did not have access to ” material reception conditions To which they are entitled during the processing of their request, namely a roof, food and clothing, or a sum allowing them to have access to it. In its judgment, the ECHR retained the case of only three applicants, the others having been lost to follow-up by their lawyers since.

→ REPORTAGE. In Oranje, the heckled reception of asylum seekers

The court noted first that these people had to wait between 90 and 131 days, much more than the 15 days then required in France, before being able to register their asylum request. And that, afterwards, they were unable to access accommodation and did not always have access to the Temporary Waiting Allowance, aid, now renamed ADA, supposed to be paid to all applicants for asylum. Thus deprived of means of subsistence, “The applicants all lived in the street, either under bridges in Paris, or on the banks of a river, the Aude, in a tent loaned by individuals”, without access to toilets, for periods ranging from three to nine months.

Since then, the situation continues

The Court, which is responsible for ensuring respect for human rights in the 47 countries of the Council of Europe, considers that these living conditions constitute a “Inhuman and degrading treatment”, prohibited by article 3. However, it recognizes that, since then, the number of asylum seekers has only increased and that France has made efforts by creating numerous accommodation places as well as by shortening instruction times. Despite this, the situation persists, as evidenced by the existence of many migrants on the street, in Calais or in Paris in particular.

→ READ. Associations call for ‘unconditional shelter’ for migrants on the street

In these conditions, what will change this judgment, considered as enforceable within three months, unless France forms an appeal? “It is a snub for the Council of State, continues Nicolas Hervieu. So far, he had considered that the administration was doing within its means and had rejected requests from healthy adult men, believing that they were not particularly vulnerable and therefore not given priority. From now on, the judges will have to take account of this jurisprudence and consider that all asylum seekers have the right to material reception conditions. “

However, very many asylum seekers are still deprived of it, either because of the delays in obtaining an appointment and registering a request, or because they lose the benefit of these conditions by leaving the accommodation allocated to them. for example. “According to official figures, there were 165,000 asylum seekers pending in May 2020, estimates Gérard Sadik, in charge of the file at Cimade, one of the associations which examined the files leading to the ECHR. However, in April, the asylum seekers’ allowance was only paid out to 152,000. This means that there are at least 20,000 people who are currently deprived of material reception conditions. “

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