Publication date: 27 March 2020 French version now available 24 April 2020

Fundamental rights of refugees, asylum applicants and migrants at the European borders

Council of Europe (CoE) and European Union (EU) Member States have an undeniable sovereign right to control the entry of non-nationals into their territory. While exercising border control, states have a duty to protect the fundamental rights of all people under their jurisdiction, regardless of their nationality and/or legal status. Under EU law, this includes providing access to asylum procedures.

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Publication date: 27 March 2020

Fundamental rights of refugees, asylum applicants and migrants at the European borders (308.76 KB)

Overview

In recent weeks, states in Europe have taken measures to protect their borders to address public order, public health, or national security challenges.

This note summarises some key safeguards of European law in this regard as they apply at the EU’s external borders, bearing in mind that relevant CoE instruments apply to all borders.

For more information, please see the Handbook on European law relating to asylum, borders and immigration jointly produced by the EU Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA) and the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR).

In the tabs in this section you can find some key safeguards in the following areas:

Borders

  • Duty to control European borders
  • Use of force to protect the borders
  • Checks at border crossing points
  • Persons who cross the border unlawfully
  • Punishment for unlawful crossing of the border

Public health

  • Special measures in case of pandemic

Return and detention

  • Bars to removal
  • Procedural safeguards to examine bars to removal
  • The principle of non-refoulement
  • Collective expulsion
  • Deprivation of liberty

Asylum

  • Access to asylum procedures
  • Suspending asylum in case of large numbers of arrivals
  • Return to a country where an asylum applicant would be safe

Care for the vulnerable

  • Persons in a vulnerable situation
  • Children
  • Unaccompanied and separated children

* The EU law provisions referred to in this note do not apply to internal Schengen borders.

Borders

Footnotes

1. See, inter alia,  ECtHR, Saadi v. United Kingdom [GC], No. 13229/03, 29 January 2008; ECtHR, Chahal v. the United Kingdom [GC], No. 22414/93, 15 November 1996.
2. ECtHR, Amuur v. France [GC], No. 19776/92, 25 June 1996, para. 41. 
3. ECtHR, Mocanu v. Romania [GC], No. 10865/09, 17 September 2014, paras. 315-326.
4. ECtHR, ibid., and Armani da Silva v. the United Kingdom [GC], No. 5878/08, 30 March 2016, paras. 229-239. 
5. CJEU, C-61/11, El Dridi, alias Soufi Karim, 28 April 2011; CJEU, C-329/11, Achughbabian v. Prefet du Val-de-Marne, 6 December; and CJEU, C-430/11, Criminal proceedings against Md Sagor, 6 December 2012.

Public health

Footnotes

1. CPT, Statement of principles relating to the treatment of persons deprived of their liberty in the context of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, CPT/Inf(2020)13, 20 March 2020.
2. ECSR, International Federation of Human Rights Leagues (FIDH) v. France, Complaint No. 14/2003, 3 November 2004, para. 30.

Return and detention

Footnotes

1. ECtHR, Saadi v. Italy ­[GC], No. 37201/06, 28 February 2008.
2. See an overview of forms of “flagrant denial of justice” in ECtHR, Harkins v. the United Kingdom (dec.) [GC], No. 71537/14, 15 June 2017, paras. 62-65. 
3. ECtHR, M.S.S. v. Belgium and Greece [GC], No. 30696/09, 21 January 2011, paras. 288 and 291,; for an overview of the Court’s case-law as to the requirements under Article 13 taken in conjunction with Articles 2 or 3 in removal cases, see, in particular, ibid., paras. 286-322.
4. Executive Committee of the High Commissioner’s Programme, Conclusion No. 6 (XXVIII) – 1977 [Non-Refoulement], 12 October 1977, para. c).
5. ECtHR, M.A. v. France, No. 9373/15, 1 February 2018; ECtHR, Salah Sheekh v. the Netherlands, No. 1948/04, 11 January 2007, para. 135; ECtHR, Soering v. the United Kingdom, No. 14038/88, 7 July 1989; ECtHR, Vilvarajah and Others v. the United Kingdom, Nos. 13163/87, 13164/87, 13165/87, 13447/87 and 13448/87, 30 October 1991.
6. ECtHR, N.D. and N.T. v. Spain [GC], Nos. 8675/15 and 8697/15, 13 February 2020, para. 178.
7. ECtHR, Hirsi Jamaa and Others v. Italy [GC], No. 27765/09, 23 February 2012.
8.ECtHR, N.D. and N.T. v. Spain [GC], Nos. 8675/15 and 8697/15, 13 February 2020, paras. 185 and 187.
9. ECtHR, N.D. and N.T. v. Spain [GC], Nos. 8675/15 and 8697/15, 13 February 2020, para. 185.
10. Ibid., paras. 193-194, 202-203.
11. ECtHR, Khlaifia and Others v. Italy [GC], No. 16483/12, 15 December 2016, paras. 237-254.
12. CPT, Statement of principles relating to the treatment of persons deprived of their liberty in the context of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, CPT/Inf(2020)13, 20 March 2020.
13. ECtHR, Popov v. France; A.B. and Others v. France; R.K. and Others v. France; Bistieva and Others v. Poland.
14. ECtHR, R.M. Others v. France, No. 33201/11, 12 July 2016. 

 

Asylum

Footnotes

1. ECtHR, M.S.S. v. Belgium and Greece [GC], No. 30696/09, 21 January 2011; M.A. and Others v. Lithuania, No. 59793/17, 11 December 2018.
2. ECtHR, Ilias and Ahmed v. Hungary [GC], No. 47287/15, 21 November 2019, paras. 124-141.

Care for the vulnerable

Footnotes

1.ECtHR, Mubilanzila Mayeka and Kaniki Mitunga v Belgium, No. 13178/03, 12 October 2006, para 55; Muskhadzhiyeva and Others v Belgium, No. 41442/07, 19 January 2010, paras. 56-58; Popov v. France, Nos. 39472/07 and 39474/07, 19 January 2012, para. 91.
2. ECtHR, Mubilanzila Mayeka and Kaniki Mitunga v Belgium, No. 13178/03, 12 October 2006, para 55; Muskhadzhiyeva and Others v Belgium, No. 41442/07, 19 January 2010, paras. 56-58; Popov v. France, Nos. 39472/07 and 39474/07, 19 January 2012, para. 91.
3. ECtHR, Rahimi v. Greece, para. 108; Popov v. France, para. 140.
4. ECtHR, Rahimi v. Greece, paras. 60 and 62; Khan v. France, No. 12267/16, 28 February 2019, para. 73.
5. ECtHR, Popov v. France.
6. ECtHR, Tarakhel v. Switzerland [GC], para. 119; Mubilanzila Mayeka and Kaniki Mitunga v. Belgium, No. 13178/03, 12 October 2006, para. 50.
7. ECtHR, Rahimi v. Greece.
8. ECtHR, Khan v. France, Sh.D. and Others v. Greece, Austria, Croatia, Hungary, North Macedonia, Serbia and Slovenia, No. 14165/16, 13 June 2019.
9. ECtHR, Rahimi v. Greece, paras. 90-95; Khan v. France, paras. 92-95.

 

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