CJEU - C-562/13, Centre public d’action sociale d’Ottignies-Louvain-La-Neuve v Moussa Abdida

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Country of Applicant: 
Nigeria
Date of Decision: 
18-12-2014
Citation: 
C-562/13
Court Name: 
Grand Chamber of the CJEU
Relevant Legislative Provisions: 
Headnote: 

The CJEU ruling concerned the scope of protection available under EU law to third country nationals suffering from serious illness whose removal would amount to inhuman or degrading treatment. The CJEU surmisedthat the removal of a person suffering a serious illness to a country where appropriate treatment was not available could in exceptional circumstances be contrary to the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, and in such circumstances their removal had to be suspended pursuant to Directive 2008/115/EC on common standards and procedures in Member States for returning illegally staying third-country nationals. The Directive 2008/115/EC required the provision of emergency health care and essential treatment of illness to be made available to such persons during the period in which the Member State is required to postpone their removal.

Facts: 

Mr. Abdida, a Nigerian national diagnosed with AIDS, submitted an application to the Belgian state requesting leave to remain due to medical reasons.  Under Belgian law transposing the Qualification Directive the state refused his leave to remain and an order to leave the country was issued.  When appealing against this decision, Mr. Abdida was not granted with a remedy having suspensive effect. In addition, during the litigation procedure, Mr. Abdida had his basic social security and medical care withdrawn. Domestic litigation concerning Mr Abdida’s entitlement under EU law to such suspensive remedies and social rights reached the Brussels Employment Court, which referred two questions to the CJEU.

Questions referred for a preliminary ruling

1. On a proper construction of Directives 2004/83/EC, 2005/85/EC and 2003/9/EC, is a Member State which provides that a foreign national has the right to subsidiary protection for the purposes of Article 15(b) of Directive 2004/83/EC if that person ‘suffers from an illness which is of such a kind as to entail a real risk to his life or physical integrity or a real risk of inhuman or degrading treatment where there is no adequate treatment for that illness in his country of origin’ under an obligation to

– provide for a remedy with suspensive effect in respect of the administrative decision refusing leave to remain and/or subsidiary protection, and ordering the person to leave the territory of that State,

– make provision under its social security or reception system for the basic needs of the person applying for subsidiary protection (other than his medical needs) to be met pending a ruling on his appeal against that administrative decision?

2. If the answer to Question 1 is in the negative, does the Charter of Fundamental Rights – and, in particular, Articles 1 to 3 (human dignity, right to life and integrity), Article 4 (prohibition of inhuman or degrading treatment), Article 19(2) (right not to be removed to a State where there is a serious risk of inhuman or degrading treatment), Articles 20 and 21 (equality and non-discrimination as compared with other categories of applicants for subsidiary protection) and/or Article 47 (right to an effective remedy) of that Charter – place a Member State in course of transposing Directives 2004/83/EC, 2005/85/EC and 2003/9/EC into national law under an obligation to make provision for a remedy with suspensive effect and for the requisite means of meeting the basic needs referred to in Question 1?

Decision & Reasoning: 

The Court examines the questions together and first reiterates its recent finding in M’Bodj that an application under national legislation granting leave to remain due to a serious illness coupled with a lack of treatment in the country of origin does not constitute a claim for international protection within the meaning of Article 2(g) of the Qualification Directive [33]. Nevertheless, the present case clearly raises issues under the Returns Directive given that Mr. Abdida has been provided with a decision declaring his stay as illegal and stating an obligation to return.

With this in mind and with regards to the suspensive effect of an appeal against a return decision the Court refers to Article 13(1) read in conjunction with 12(1) of the Directive which provides that “a third country national must be afforded an effective remedy to appeal against or seek review of a decision ordering his return [43].” Moreover, and again citing the ECtHR jurisprudence in N v UK, albeit to advance a different proposition than in M’Bodj, the Court affirms that in exceptional cases the removal of a third country national suffering from a serious illness to a country in which appropriate treatment is not available may infringe the principle of non-refoulement and subsequently a violation of Article 5 of the Returns Directive. Given that this may lead to a serious and irreparable harm, the Court submits “that a third country national must be able to avail himself, in such circumstances, of a remedy with suspensive effect, in order to ensure that the return decision is not enforced before a competent authority has had the opportunity to examine an objection alleging infringement of” non-refoulement in both the Returns Directive and the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights [50]. The Court thus advances that national legislation which does not give suspensive effect to an appeal challenging a return decision and which may expose the applicant to a serious risk of grave and irreversible deterioration in his state of health must be precluded [53].

In this manner the Court further submits that where an application raises these issues and an appeal has been lodged, the Member State is required to provide under Article 14 (1)(b) of the Returns Directive “for the basic needs of a third country national suffering from a serious illness where such a person lacks the means to make such provision for himself.” However, the Court concludes that it is for “the Member States to determine the form in which such provision for the basic needs of the third country national concerned is to be made [61].”

 
Outcome: 

The Court ruled:

Articles 5 and 13 of Directive 2008/115/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 16 December 2008 on common standards and procedures in Member States for returning illegally staying third-country nationals, taken in conjunction with Articles 19(2) and 47 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union and Article 14(1)(b) of that directive, are to be interpreted as precluding national legislation which:

–        does not endow with suspensive effect an appeal against a decision ordering a third country national suffering from a serious illness to leave the territory of a Member State, where the enforcement of that decision may expose that third country national to a serious risk of grave and irreversible deterioration in his state of health, and

–        does not make provision, in so far as possible, for the basic needs of such a third country national to be met, in order to ensure that emergency health care and essential treatment of illness are in fact made available during the period in which that Member State is required to postpone removal of the third country national following the lodging of the appeal.

Observations/Comments: 

The Advocate General Bot opinion on the case is available here. He proposed the following response to the CJEU:

1) Council Directive 2003/9/EC of 27 January 2003 laying down minimum standards for the reception of asylum seekers, Council Directive 2004/83/EC of 29 April 2004 on minimum standards for the qualification and status of third-country nationals or stateless persons as refugees or as persons who otherwise need international protection and the content of the protection granted and Council Directive 2005/85/EC of 1 December 2005 on minimum standards on procedures in Member States for granting and withdrawing refugee status must be interpreted as meaning that the procedural safeguards and social benefits established by the EU legislature under those directives are not applicable to an application for leave to reside on medical grounds under Article 9b of the Law of 15 December 1980 on entry to Belgian territory, residence, establishment and removal of foreign nationals.

2) Article 13(1) and (2) of Directive 2008/115/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 16 December 2008 on common standards and procedures in Member States for returning illegally staying third-country nationals must be interpreted as precluding a national procedural rule which does not make available a remedy with automatic suspensive effect where an appeal is lodged against a return decision the enforcement of which may expose the person concerned to a risk of inhuman or degrading treatment contrary to Article 4 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, in view of that person’s state of health.

3) Article 14 of Directive 2008/115 must be interpreted as precluding national legislation which, with regard to illegally staying third-country nationals who have appealed against a return decision, limits provision for their basic needs merely to emergency medical assistance. In such a situation, the Member State is required to ensure, for the entire duration of the judicial proceedings, that provision is made for the basic needs of the person concerned to a level sufficient to ensure that his subsistence needs are catered for and a decent standard of living adequate for his health, by enabling him, inter alia, to secure accommodation and by taking account of any special needs that he may have.

 

Case comment:

Could EU law save Paddington Bear? The CJEU develops a new type of protection, Steve Peers, December 2014

http://eulawanalysis.blogspot.be/2014/12/could-eu-law-save-paddington-bear-cjeu.html

Case Law Cited: 

CJEU - C-432/05 Unibet (London) Ltd and Unibet (International) Ltd v Justitiekanslern

ECtHR - N v United Kingdom (Application no. 26565/05)

CJEU - C-45/12, Office national d’allocations familiales pour travailleurs salariés (ONAFTS) v Radia Hadj Ahmed (UP)

CJEU - C-243/09, Günter Fuß v Stadt Halle (UP)

CJEU - C-604/12, H. N. v Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform and Others (UP)

CJEU - C‑334/12 RX‑II, Oscar Orlando Arango Jaramillo and Others v European Investment Bank (EIB) (UP)
Attachment(s): 
Authentic Language: 
French
Country of preliminary reference: 
Belgium
National / Other Legislative Provisions: 
Belgium - Vreemdelingenwet/loi sur les étrangers 15/12/1980 (Aliens Act)