ECtHR decision in Butt v. Norway (no. 47017/09) [Article 8]

Friday, October 4, 2013

The applicants are two siblings who are Pakistani nationals. They had come to Norway with their mother in 1989 and they were granted residence permits on humanitarian grounds. In 1999 their permits were withdrawn on account of the fact that they had returned to Pakistan between 1992 and 1996 without notifying it to the Norwegian immigration authorities, and they were refused further residence in Norway. The two applicants were minors at the time. An attempt to deport the two applicants was stopped in 2001 as their mother was missing and they had no contact with their family in Pakistan anymore. Their mother was expelled in 2005 and died in Pakistan in 2007. In the subsequent years, during which they lived with other relatives in Norway, the applicants tried to challenge the withdrawal of their residence permits unsuccessfully. Their deportation to Pakistan was never carried out and finally its implementation was stayed in 2010 pending the decision of the European Court of Human Rights.

The applicants argued a violation of their right to private and family life if deported. They maintained that their residence in Norway had been lawful until the revocation of their residence permits in 1999 owed to reasons beyond their control. They had not been aware of the precariousness of their situation until 2001; therefore their links to Norway had been formed in the belief that they were residing legally in Norway. After the disappearance of their mother they had continued to go to school and to live in Oslo with relatives to whom they had developed strong ties. In conclusion, they had a family life in Norway, were well integrated and had strong ties to the country, whereas their links to Pakistan were much weaker. Accordingly, they submitted that their removal to Pakistan would constitute a violation of Article 8 of the Convention.

The Court agreed that the applicants' family and social ties to Norway had been established by the time they learned about the precariousness of their immigration status. Moreover, the fact that the Norwegian authorities had implemented the deportation of the applicants neither before nor after their majority of age, nor at the time of deporting their mother, would not allow for attributing to them the irregularities committed by their mother and for letting them bear the adverse consequences thereof. The Court also appreciated the strong family and private life ties of the applicants to Norway as compared to their weaker links to Pakistan. Finally, the Court found the circumstances of the case to be exceptional and was not satisfied that Norway had acted within its margin of appreciation when seeking to strike a fair balance between its public interest in ensuring immigration control and the applicants' right to private life. Consequentially, it declared a violation of Article 8.

For the full text of the judgment please click here.

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Cessation of protection
Revocation of protection status
Family unity (right to)