On 18 December, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) ruled on a case (application nos 76550/13 and 45938/14) concerning the expulsion of two Moroccan nationals following their convictions for criminal offences in Spain.

The two applicants had obtained temporary residence permits in Spain, pending the issuance of their long-term residence permits. However, due to their conviction for criminal offenses the Spanish authorities initiated expulsion proceedings against both applicants. Following extensive domestic litigation, the applicants brought the case before the ECtHR arguing that the measures had infringed upon their right to respect for their private and family life.

In view of the applicants’ length of stay in Spain, as well as their relationship with their close relatives established there, the Court considered that the contested measures had to be regarded as an interference with their right to respect for their “private life”. The ECtHR did not concur with the national court’s finding that the exercise of balancing the right to respect for private and family life, and the respect for public order, had already been conducted by the legislators when providing for the possibility to expel foreign nationals, who have been convicted of offences. Instead, the Court observed that the nature and seriousness of the offences was only one of the criteria to be balanced by the national authorities when assessing the necessity of an expulsion and a ban from the territory, according to its own case law.

The ECtHR further observed that the Higher Court of Catalonia had explicitly refused to examine the proportionality of the impugned measures and that it had held that the conviction of one of the applicants particularly highlighted the fact that he could not be considered as having roots in Spain. In this regard, the Court concluded that the offence alone cannot demonstrate the lack of social or family ties of the person concerned with the country of residence. Additionally, the national court had not taken into consideration the length of the applicants’ residence in Spain, their school attendance, or the solidity of the applicants’ social, cultural and family ties both to Spain and Morocco.

Consequently, the Court held that the Spanish authorities had failed to balance all the competing interests in order to assess whether the challenged measures had been proportionate to the legitimate aims pursued, finding that there has been a violation of Article 8 ECHR.

Based on an unofficial translation by the ELENA Weekly Legal Update.