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Detention of asylum-seekers in Belgium did not breach the ECHR

On 4 April 2017 the Court handed down a Chamber judgment in the case of Thimothawes v. Belgium which concerned the five-month detention of an Egyptian asylum-seeker at the Belgian border. The Court held that there had been no violation of Article 5 § 1 (right to liberty and security) of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). It found in particular that any measure depriving a person of his liberty had to be prescribed by law. The Court observed that the Aliens Act had been applied to the applicant, which he considered contrary to two European Union directives. The Court reiterated that it was incumbent on the national authorities to interpret domestic law in conformity with European Union law. Save in the case of an arbitrary or manifestly unreasonable interpretation, the Court confined itself to assessing the compatibility of the effects of that interpretation with the ECHR.

In the present case, the scrutiny of lawfulness conducted by the domestic courts of the detention order had taken account of the case-law of the Court. Moreover, the issue of the applicant’s mental health was not, on its own, sufficient to find that his detention had been arbitrary. Finally, the assessment of the facts of the case supported a finding that his period of detention had not been unreasonably long.

The case of Muzamba Oyaw v. Belgium, was declared inadmissible by the Court in a decision handed down on 4 April 2017. The case concerned the administrative detention of a Congolese national with a view to his expulsion while his partner, a Belgian national, had been pregnant. The Court rejected the applicant’s complaints under Article 5 §1 (f) (right to liberty and security) of the ECHR, considering that in the instant case, pursuant to domestic law, the competent Belgian courts had conducted an adequate assessment of the necessity of the detention and that the total duration of that detention had not been excessive. Examining whether the applicant’s administrative detention infringed his right to respect for private and family life under Article 8 of the ECHR, the Court noted that such detention had been in accordance with law, had pursued a legitimate aim and had been proportionate. As to the proportionality of the detention, the Court observed, in particular, that the applicant’s family life had developed at a time when he had known that his situation vis-à-vis the immigration regulations was liable to destabilise such family life in Belgium. The applicant’s partner had been able to stay in touch with him during his detention. The Court also had regard to the total duration of the applicant’s detention and the fact that he was released on the date his partner had given birth.