European court condemns France over asylum-seekers sleeping rough in the streets

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) on Thursday condemned France for the “inhuman and degrading living conditions” of three asylum-seekers who were “living in the street without any resources”.

The Strasbourg-based court ruled that authorities “had failed in their duties” with regard to the three asylum-seekers, finding France responsible for the conditions in which the three men – an Afghan, a Russian and an Iranian aged 27, 33, and 46, respectively – “had been living for several months: sleeping rough, without access to sanitary facilities, having no means of subsistence and constantly in fear of being attacked or robbed”.

The court ruled “the applicants had thus been victims of degrading treatment, showing a lack of respect for their dignity”.

The ruling noted that two of the asylum-seekers received a Temporary Allowance after several months of waiting and the court said that before being able to register as asylum-seekers, the men “had been forced to survive for a certain period of time without any evidence of that status”.

Migrant tent camps were a common sight in outlying areas of Paris in recent years, although since mid-2018 authorities have stepped up sweeps to bring their residents to shelters.

Those sleeping rough include undocumented migrants and those seeking to apply for asylum in France after being refused in other EU countries.

However, charities say registered asylum seekers and even recognised refugees have also ended up sleeping rough due to a lack of official accommodation.

The three men who won the case spent months waiting for an official acknowledgement that they had lodged asylum claims.

The court noted that without it they could not access housing or welfare payments and were at constant risk of deportation.

One of them, an Iranian journalist who was eventually granted refugee status, lived on the streets for almost six months and was without resources for 133 days.

Another, an Afghan national who was ultimately granted humanitarian protection in France due to violence in his home region, slept under canal bridges for 262 days.

The court rejected a claim by a fourth asylum seeker, while he had lived in a tent for no less than nine months, he had been granted a subsistence allowance after 63 days.

The ECHR ordered France to pay the three successful claimants damages ranging from 10,000 to 12,396.80 euros.

Adira Kallo

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