France in breach of ECHR for failure to provide care to unaccompanied minor in Calais camp

The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) has ruled that France is in breach of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) for failing to provide care to an unaccompanied foreign minor living in the makeshift ‘lande de Calais’ shanty town. The Court found the French authorities to be in violation of Article 3 of the Convention, which prohibits inhuman and degrading treatment.

The applicant is an Afghan national born in 2004 who arrived in Calais in the hopes of seeking asylum in the UK. In 2015, an urgent applications judge had ordered that the Pas-de-Calais Prefect ascertain the number of unaccompanied minors in the camp, co-operate with the State in placing the children in care, and provide adequate sanitary facilities in the camp.

The Government had submitted that all necessary amenities had been installed in the camp and the number of unaccompanied minors had been ascertained, however, it was asserted by the applicant that this did not result in the provision of care for these minors. In February 2016, the applicant, assisted by the NGO ‘Cabane Juridique’ applied for a provisional care order with the Children’s Judge, which ordered the child’s placement into state care.

However, the relevant authorities subsequently failed to take any action to provide for him off the back of this court order. It was claimed that they could not implement the order as they could not locate the child. In March 2016, the dismantling of the southern section of the Calais camp prompted the applicant to illegally enter the UK where he was placed into the child welfare service.

Upon application to the ECtHR, the Court was not convinced that the authorities had done all that could reasonably be expected of them to fulfil the obligation of protection and care for an unaccompanied foreign minor unlawfully present on French territory. For several months the applicant had lived in an environment completely unsuited to his status as a child and in a situation of insecurity rendered unacceptable by his young age.

The Court held that the extremely negative circumstances prevailing in the makeshift camps and the failure to enforce the court order intended to secure protection for the applicant amounted to a violation of the respondent State’s obligations, and that the Article 3 severity threshold had been reached. It deduced that on account of the failure of the French authorities to take the requisite action, the applicant had found himself in a situation that amounted to degrading treatment.

The Court held that France was to pay the applicant €15,000 in respect of non-pecuniary damage.

Click here for the judgement in French.



Sustaining Partners