Muhammad Saqawat v Belgium: Detention of asylum applicant amounted to violation of Article 5(1) and 5(4) ECHR

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

On 30 June 2020, the European Court of Human Rights published its judgment in Muhammad Saqawat v Belgium (Application No. 54962/18) concerning the lawfulness of detention at an airport transit centre.

The applicant, a Bangladeshi national, arrived at Zaventem airport in Brussels in December 2017 and lodged an asylum request. He was refused entry to the territory on the same day and a decision was made to detain him in a transit detention centre close to the airport. His initial asylum request and subsequent requests were rejected. Four successive detention orders were made between December 2017 and May 2018. He was finally released following the judgment of the Indictments Chamber of the Brussels Court of Appeal of 14 May 2018, which also held that the detention order made on 20 February 2018 was unlawful. The applicant complained that his administrative detention was incompatible with Article 5(1) ECHR and that he did not have access to an effective remedy to challenge his detention, contrary to Article 5(4) ECHR.

The Court noted that the issuing of a new lawful detention order cannot erase the unlawfulness of a past decision. It added that domestic law authorising the deprivation of liberty must be sufficiently accessible, precise, and predictable in its application. In the present case, the detention decision of 20 February 2018 was not issued following an individualised assessment of the applicant’s third asylum application. The Court therefore concluded that the applicant’s detention between 20 February and 27 February was unlawful. It added that any detention order must be valid throughout the entire period to which it applies. In this respect, while the new detention order made on 27 February 2018 was lawful, it had to remain so for the entire duration of detention until 14 May 2018, when the applicant was released. As this detention order had expired on 6 May 2018, and had not been validly extended, the Court held that the applicant was also unlawfully detained from 6 May to 14 May 2018, in violation of Article 5(1) ECHR.  

In respect of the complaint regarding the lack of an effective remedy without undue delay, the Court noted, inter alia, that the applicant had been unable to obtain a final and prompt decision by a court on the lawfulness of his detention. As such, it concluded that there has been a violation of Article 5(4) ECHR.

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.