ECtHR – Mugenzi v. France, Application No. 52701/09

Printer-friendly versionPrinter-friendly version
Country of Applicant: 
Rwanda
Date of Decision: 
10-07-2014
Citation: 
Mugenzi v. France (Application No. 52701/09), 10 July 2014
Court Name: 
European Court of Human Rights, Fifth Section
Headnote: 

The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) found that the procedure for examining applications for family reunification had to contain a number of elements, having regard to the applicants’ refugee status on the one hand and the best interests of the children on the other, so that their interests as guaranteed by Article 8 of the Convention from the point of view of procedural requirements were safeguarded.

Facts: 

The French consular authorities in Nairobi declared Mr Mugenzi’s children to be too old for reunification, on the basis of an age assessment by mouth cavity examination, which purportedly revealed a discrepancy between the children’s physiological age and their birth certificates. After receiving another refusal decision on the same grounds, Mr Mugenzi applied in April 2007 to the Council of State. Claiming that his children were unaccompanied with one of his sons suffering from health problems as a result of the trauma experienced in Rwanda, he requested his application to be dealt with urgently in January 2008. In the following month, the Council of State refused the urgency request, due to the children either being, or soon to be, adults. In March 2009, the Council of State gave judgment on the merits against the applicant.

The applicant relying in particular on Article 8 (right to respect for private and family life), alleged that the refusal by the consular authorities to issue visas to their children for the purpose of family reunification had infringed their right to respect for their family life.

Decision & Reasoning: 

The Court firstly considered that the disputed refusals to issue the visas had not amounted to “interference” in the exercise of the applicants’ right to respect for their family life. As part of the family reunification procedure, once authorisation had been granted by the Prefect, the members of the family concerned were required to obtain an entry visa to France; the issuing of such visas was not automatic, and was subject to the requirements of the maintenance of public order.

The Court stated that in view of the decision to grant refugee status to the applicant, and the subsequent recognition of the principle of family reunification, it had been of overriding importance that his visa applications be examined rapidly, attentively and with particular diligence. To that end, France had been under an obligation to institute a procedure that took into account the events which had disrupted and disturbed his family live and had led to the grant of the refugee status. The Court therefore decided to focus its examination on the quality of the procedure. The Court reiterated that family unity was an essential right for refugees and that family reunification was a fundamental element in enabling persons who had fled persecution to resume a normal life. There existed a broad consensus at the international and European level concerning the need for refugees to benefit from a more favourable family reunification procedure than that foreseen for other foreigners. Furthermore, the Court had to take account of the standards set out in the international instruments in this area and to bear in mind the recommendations made by non-governmental organisations specialising in the rights of aliens. In particular, with regard to evidence provided by the applicant, the national authorities were urged to take into consideration “other evidence” of the existence of family ties where the refugee was unable to provide official supporting documents.

The Court noted that it was a summary medical examination which proved decisive in evaluating the doubtful authenticity of the birth certificates submitted in the visa applications. It noted the difficulties encountered by the applicants in participating effectively in the procedure and especially in putting forward “other elements” of proof of a parent-child relationship and/or the children’s ages. In particular, the Court noted that the applicant had referred to his children from the start of their asylum applications and that OFPRA had certified the composition of their family. Thus, the Court observed that the applicant had been confronted with multiple difficulties over the years, in spite of the fact that he had already undergone traumatic experiences. Lastly, it had taken almost five years for Mr Mugenzi to obtain a final decision on his application; in the Court’s opinion, these time periods were excessive, given the applicants’ specific situation and what was at stake for them in the verification procedure.

The Court held that the procedure for examining the application for family reunification lacked flexibility, promptness and effectiveness. Thus, the State failed to apply a fair balance between the interest of the applicant on the one hand and its interest to control immigration on the other.

 The Court concluded that national authorities did not respect his right to family life and there has been a violation of Article 8.

Outcome: 

Violation of Article 8 (right to respect for private and family life) of the European Convention on Human Rights.

Just satisfaction:

The Court awarded the applicant 9,522.90 Euros

Observations/Comments: 

Further information which you might find useful:

 

Case Law Cited: 

France - Council of State, 5 April 2006, n° 274876

ECtHR - Konstantinov v The Netherlands, Application No. 50435/99

ECtHR - Mo P. v. France, Application No. 55787/09

France - Council of State, 17 june 2009, n°307583

France - Council of State, 25 Mai 2010, n° 325881

France - Council of State, 18 December 2008, n°296370

ECtHR - Tuquabo-Tekle and Others v. the Netherlands, Application no. 60665/00 (UP)

France - Council of State, 6 October 2010, No 332334

ECtHR - Tanda-Muzinga v. France, Application No 2260/10 (UP)

ECtHR - Ahmade v. Greece, Application No 50520/09

ECtHR - Antwi and Others v. Norway, Application no. 26940/10 (UP)

ECtHR - Berisha v. Switzerland, Application no. 948/12

ECtHR - Cılız v. the Netherlands, Application no. 29192/95 (UP)
Other sources cited: 

Avis n°88 du Comité consultatif d’éthique pour les sciences de la vie et de la santé sur les methodes de détermiation de l’âge à des fins juridiques (juin 2005)

UNHCR Executive Committee conclusions nos 1, 9, 24, 84, 85 and 88.

Green Paper on the right to family reunification of third-country nationals living in the EuropeanUnion (Directive 2003/86/EC)

UNHCR's Response to the European Commission Green Paper on the Right to Family Reunification of Third Country Nationals Living in the European Union (Directive 2003/86/EC)

European Parliament’s own initiative report on the situation of unaccompanied minors (12 September 2013)

Commissaire aux droits de l’homme du Conseil de l’Europe, Carnets des droits de l’homme : Les méthodes d'évaluation de l'âge des migrants mineurs doivent être améliorées (août 2011)

Authentic Language: 
French
State Party: 
France
National / Other Legislative Provisions: 
France - Code Civil - Article 47
France - Ceseda (Code of the Entry and Stay of Foreigners and Asylum Law)