N.H. and others v France: Failure of domestic authorities resulted in inhuman and degrading living conditions

Thursday, July 2, 2020

On 2 July 2020, the European Court of Human Rights published its judgment in N.H. and others v France (Application No. 28820/13) concerning the living conditions of homeless asylum applicants as a result of the failures of the French authorities.

The case concerns 5 single men of Afghan, Iranian, Georgian and Russian nationality who arrived in France on separate occasions. After submitting their asylum applications, they were unable to receive material and financial support and were therefore forced into homelessness. The applicants slept in tents or in other precarious circumstances and lived without material or financial support, in the form of Temporary Allowance, for a substantial period of time. All of the applicants complained, inter alia, that their living conditions were incompatible with Article 3 ECHR. The complaint in respect of applicant G.I. was struck out of the list as he could not be contacted. 
The Court observed that the applicants were entitled to material and financial support under domestic law, providing they had been authorised to reside in France as registered asylum seekers. As such, it was necessary to highlight the substantial lapse in time between the applicants submitting requests for asylum and the date on which their asylum applications were registered by the relevant authorities. Indeed, applicants N.H., K.T., and A.J. waited over 90 days for their asylum applications to be registered, while S.G.’s application was registered after 28 days. It was also noted by the Court that receipt of the Temporary Allowance was conditional on presenting an asylum seeker’s residence permit to the job centre. As a result, N.H., K.T., and A.J. were unable to prove their status for over 90 days and lived in fear of being arrested or deported.

In light of these circumstances, the Court concluded that the three applicants had been unable to justify their status for a long-period (over 90 days) and had therefore been forced into homelessness without access to sanitary facilities or other material support. As such, the French authorities had failed in their duty towards the applicants, causing them to live in inhuman and degrading conditions. The Court therefore found a violation of Article 3 ECHR in respect of applicants N.H., K.T., and A.J. It added that the fourth applicant, S.G., had received a Temporary Allowance after 63 days in total, at which point he was provided with means to meet his basic needs, and therefore did not reach the severity required to find a violation of Article 3 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.                               

Inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment
Material reception conditions
Reception conditions