The Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) ruled on Tuesday that an asylum seeker guilty of violent behaviour cannot be excluded from a reception centre, as was the case in 2015 with a young Afghan at the Fedasil Centre in Broechem, Antwerp Province.
Z.H., who had arrived in Belgium as an unaccompanied minor, was excluded from the centre for 15 days after a brawl with other residents. He said he spent nights at the Maximilien Park in Brussels and stayed with friends during the exclusion.
In such cases, the sanctions imposed are regulated by a 2013 European directive requiring them to be proportionate to the particular situation of the applicant and to ensure him/her “a dignified standard of living”.
The CJEU ruled on Tuesday that the withdrawal of material reception conditions – housing, food or clothing – even temporary, was incompatible with the obligation to guarantee a dignified standard of living because it deprived the applicant of the possibility to satisfy his most basic needs.
The Belgian authorities could not limit themselves, as they envisaged, to simply giving the excluded youth a list of private homeless shelters likely to host him, the Court ruled.
Rather than withdrawing or reducing the person’s daily allowance, which could be disproportionate, the Court recalled, member States can take other measures such as a partial separation from the reception centre or a transfer to another shelter.
The competent authorities can also decide to place the applicant in detention, according to the Luxemburg-based Court.
The Court noted further that in the case of unaccompanied minors, the national authorities need to give added consideration to their particularity, as well as the principle of proportionality.
Pointing to the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, the CJEU stressed the higher interest of the child. It added that there would have been no obstacle to the authorities deciding to place the minor in the hands of the child-protection services or the judicial authorities responsible for them.
Following the CJEU ruling, the Brussels Labour Court now has to decide on the complaint filed by Z.H. against Fedasil, the Belgian federal agency in charge of the reception of asylum seekers.