B.G. and others v. France: general living conditions in tent camp on a carpark do not violate Article 3 ECHR

Thursday, September 10, 2020

In the case of B.G. and others v. France (application no. 63141/13) the ECtHR unanimously ruled on 10 September that, inter alia, the living conditions in a French tent camp on a carpark did not violate Article 3 ECHR.

The case concerns 17 applicants, four families including minor children, who were seeking international protection. They were based in Metz, where they were forced to live in a tent camp on a carpark, sleeping directly on the concrete ground, from 29 June 2013 to 9 October 2013. They claimed that their exclusion from the accommodation facilities provided for under domestic law during the abovementioned period, and their placement for over three months in a camp, had exposed them to inhuman and degrading treatment contrary to Article 3 ECHR and had infringed their right to respect for family life, under Article 8 ECHR, especially considering the inappropriate conditions to which their very young children were exposed. Furthermore, they claimed to have lacked the material and financial support to which they were entitled under domestic law.

The applicants had filed urgent applications for the protection of a fundamental freedom with the Administrative Court of Strasbourg, but saw those applications rejected on various grounds, including because the precarity of which they complained was to be remedied promptly or because they had been summoned to the Moselle prefecture for an examination of their situation. A subsequent appeal with the Conseil d’ État (Council of State) was also rejected.

The ECtHR first noted that applicants 1 to 12 had not maintained contact with their lawyer and considered that it was no longer justified to continue examining their complaints. Regarding applicants 13 to 17 and Article 3 ECHR, the ECtHR noted, inter alia, that there was no specific material allowing it to make a concrete assessment of the applicants’ living conditions in the tent camp. More specifically, it found that the parties’ accounts differed regarding the living conditions in the camp and that they had only made general and unsubstantiated statements. Furthermore, it assessed that the French authorities had taken measures that rapidly improved their material living conditions, in particular ensuring medical care and schooling for the children. In that regard, it went on to note that the three month and eleven-day delay in providing accommodation in a permanent structure was relatively ‘quick’.

The Court observed that while the applicants’ camp had been overcrowded and that the sanitary conditions had been unsatisfactory, it did not consider that sufficient to rule that the applicants had found themselves in a situation of material deprivation that had reached the threshold of severity necessary to fall within the scope of Article 3. As such, the ECtHR found no violation of Article 3 ECHR. The ECHR found the applicants’ complaints under Article 8 ECHR to be manifestly ill-founded, because it lacked substantive and specific information about their situation.

Based on an unofficial translation by the EWLU team

This item was reproduced with the permission of ECRE from the ELENA Weekly Legal Update. The purpose of these updates is to inform asylum lawyers and legal organizations supporting asylum seekers and refugees of recent developments in the field of asylum law. Please note that the information provided is taken from publicly available information on the internet. Every reasonable effort is made to make the content accurate and up to date at the time each item is published but no responsibility for its accuracy and correctness, or for any consequences of relying on it, is assumed by ECRE.                               

Inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment
Material reception conditions
Reception conditions