ECHR right to Shelter Case: Camara v Belgium by Lilly Flam, A&L Goodbody LLP


The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) recently granted interim measures compelling the Belgian State to provide accommodation and material assistance to meet the basic needs of an asylum seeker. The case of Camara v Belgium is the first of its kind and could have a pervasive impact around the enforcement of the rights of asylum seekers. The case concerned a Guinean national Adoulaye Camara (the applicant) who applied for international protection to the Belgian authorities on 15 July 2022. The Federal Agency for the Reception of Asylum Seekers (Fedasil) failed to assign Camara a place due to the alleged overload being experienced by the networks receiving asylum seekers in Belgium. As a result of the failure of Fedasil to provide emergency accommodation, the applicant had no other choice but to live on the streets. The case commenced in the Labour Court in Brussels with an application seeking that Fedasil comply with its legal obligations of providing accommodation to Camara and further alleging that due to the failure of Fedasil to provide emergency accommodation, there had been "irreversible damage to human dignity" of the applicant pursuant to Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) as relates to the prohibition of inhuman or degrading treatment. On 22 July 2022 the Labour Court held that Fedasil must comply with its legal obligations under Belgian law to provide suitable accommodation and assist the applicant with meeting his basic needs. Despite the Labour Courts finding, the order was unfortunately not enforced. After all domestic remedies had been exhausted, on 12 October 2022 the applicant took the case to the ECtHR arguing a breach of Article 3 (prohibition of inhuman or degrading treatment), Article 6 (right to a fair hearing), Article 13 (right to an effective remedy – for failure to enforce the Labour Courts order), and Article 8 (right to respect for private and family life) of the ECHR.

The applicant also sought enforcement of interim measures under Rule 39 of the Rules of the Court seeking that the Belgian Government enforce the court order to provide Camara with 'emergency accommodation and material assistance to meet his basic needs'. Interim measures under Rule 39 tend to be granted only on an exceptional basis where it can be established that there is a real risk of irreversible harm. In support of the applicant's request, he submitted that due to the progressively cold and wet conditions and hunger that he had suffered due to the failure of Fedasil, these had resulted in health issues for the applicant. In particular, he referenced the worsening scabies epidemic amongst asylum seekers living on the streets. (Interim measures are addressed as preliminary applications and do not affect the admissibility or merits of the substantive case being submitted).

Finding on the interim measures

On 31 October 2022 the ECtHR released its finding on the interim measures submission and held that Camara did face a 'real risk of irreversible harm'. The Court subsequently ordered the Belgian state to comply with the order made by the Labour Court on 22 July 2022.


While the full substantive judgment of the ECtHR on the case has not yet been issued, the interim findings of the European Court provide indication around the applicability of Rule 39 on interim measures. Importantly, the finding exhibits that the denial of 'emergency accommodation and material assistance regarding basic needs' of an international protection applicant can give rise to enforceable actions before the ECtHR in those circumstances where domestic measures have been exhausted and have proven unsuccessful.




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