EU court rules against Germany on detention of deportees

Germany has suffered defeat at the European Court of Justice over the detention of persons to be deported. The court ruled that would-be deportees should not be remanded in a place that could be described as a prison

People who are to be deported may not be detained as if they were prisoners, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) has ruled.

The EU judges delivered the verdict in Luxembourg on Thursday (10 March) in the case of a Pakistani who was detained in a section of the Hanover correctional institution (JVA) in 2020. In the process, he was housed in the vicinity of prisoners.

According to the ECJ, the Pakistani was accommodated in a special section of the prison in Hanover, one of whose three buildings housed prisoners for part of his stay. According to the German judiciary which referred the case to the ECJ, there was no direct access between the buildings for deportees and normal prisoners.

The ECJ has now ruled that such accommodation can only comply with EU law if it’s not “tantamount to detention in a prison environment”. At the same time, the detainee’s relevant rights must be guaranteed. These include being able to contact family members or consular authorities.

An EU directive stipulates that people like the Pakistani whose asylum application had been rejected may be detained in extreme cases. This only applies if other measures to prepare them for return or deportation are not sufficient.

According to EU law, detainees awaiting deportation must then “in principle be placed in special detention facilities”. If that is impossible, they must at least be separated from prisoners.

Pro Asyl and the Refugee Council of Lower Saxony have welcomed the ruling.

For the first time, the ECJ had set guidelines for the accommodation of people who are to be deported, they said. The federal government was now obliged to draw consequences from the judgement, the human rights groups added, calling on the federal states to review their detention centres and to partly rebuild them.

Femi Awoniyi

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