On 30 June 2022, the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) released a judgment on the request for an urgent preliminary ruling from the Supreme Administrative Court of Lithuania (case C‑72/22 PPU) regarding the compatibility of the Lithuanian Aliens Act with the Reception Conditions Directive 2013/33/EU and Asylum Procedures Directive 2013/32/EU. The case concerns a third-country national, M.A., who was arrested without the necessary travel documents and was found to be irregularly residing in Lithuania. On the grounds of irregular entry and stay and justified by the risk of absconding, the Lithuanian authorities placed him in detention. M.A. lodged an application for international protection. After the 2021 amendment of Lithuania’s Aliens Act, in declared situations of emergency due to a mass influx of migrants, a third-country national who entered the territory irregularly might be placed in detention solely on grounds of this unlawful entry. The provisions of the new legislation also limit the possibility of applying for international protection when this situation of emergency is declared. For this reason, M.A. as a third-country national that was irregularly in Lithuania and in detention could not apply for international protection and gain the “asylum applicant status”. The asylum application in this case at hand was only allowed under the discretion of the authorities taking into account the vulnerability and other individual circumstances. Regarding the first question, the CJEU highlighted that the asylum procedure must guarantee effective access to international protection – both established by the Asylum Procedures Directive and by the right to asylum guaranteed by Article 18 of the Charter. Depriving a third-country national of the possibility of applying for international protection due to the irregularity of their stay, would prevent them from effectively enjoying the right to asylum enshrined in the Charter. The Court asserted that the measures taken by the MS that require lodging the application in person or at a designated place cannot be exercised in a way that in practice prevents asylum applications from being lodged disregarding the Asylum Procedures Directive. Subsequently, the CJEU held that these national measures such as the Lithuanian Aliens Act cannot be regarded as compatible with EU law. Furthermore, the Court held that the mass influx of third-country nationals does not justify the adoption of measures derogating from EU law by mere reliance on Article 72 TFEU. On the second question, the CJEU ruled that EU legislation does not allow the detention of asylum applicants solely on the grounds of an irregular entrance or stay. The ruling referred to the seriousness of the interference in the right to liberty and thus limited the detention within the meaning of EU law to strictly necessary situations where after individual assessment a serious threat is identified. According to the Court, an irregular stay does not prove by itself a threat to society. In conclusion, the Court ruled that EU law precludes national provisions according to which in the event of a declaration of an emergency due to a mass influx of foreigners any third-country national that entered and resides illegally may be deprived of the possibility of applying for international protection and may be detained solely on the ground of illegal residence. Based on an unofficial translation from within the EWLU team.
CJEU: The Court ruled detention and restrictions on the right to seek protection in the new Lithuanian Aliens Act are not compatible with EU law
30 Jun 2022 | News