The European Court of Human Rights

The European court of Human Rights (ECtHR) rules on violations of human rights set out in the ECHR. Below are the rules on the functioning of the Court, and major relevant judgments on detention and related issues of interest for asylum seekers and irregular migrants.

Rules of the Court entered into force the 1st July 2013


Major relevant judgments relating to immigration detention:

  • Kolompar v. Belgium, 1992. Detention for extradition falls under Article 5.1(f) of the Convention.

  • Amuur v. France, 1996 (on holding asylum seekers in the transit zone of an airport see in particular Points 37-54)

  • Chahal v. UK, 1996. Article 5.1(f) does not foresee a necessity test; detention for a long period can be justified the process of deportation is active and ongoing. The legal review of detention must be wide enough to also review the legality of detention.

  • Dougouz v. Greece, 2011. Severe overcrowding, absence of sleeping facilities, bad sanitary facilities can – depending on the length of detention in such facilities – amount to inhuman or degrading detention conditions violating Article 3.

  • Čonka v. Belgium, 2002. Detention is arbitrary if the people concerned are deceived about the purpose of an order and detained based on that deception.

  • Mubilanzila and Kaniki Mitunga v. Belgium, 2006 (on detention of unaccompanied minors, see in particular Points 41-63, 72-87, 92-118)
  • Nasrulloyev v. Russia, 2007. The legal bases for detaining persons for removal must be precise and foreseeable in their application and must comply with the “quality of law standard” of the Convention.

  • Gebremedhin v. France, 2007 (on lawful detention to prevent an unauthorised entry into the country, in particular see points 68-75)

  • Saadi v. UK, 2008 (on general principles on detention, in particular see Points 12-15, 61-85)
  • Riad and Idiab v. Belgium, 2008 (in French; on holding asylum seekers in the transit zone of an airport, see in particular Points 64-81, 88-111, 115-117. An English short version is available in "Human rights information bulletin", n. 73, p. 29, COE copyright))
  • Muminov v. Russia, 2008 (on inadequate safeguards against arbitrary detention, in particular see Points 106-123)
  • Sadaykov v. Bulgaria, 2008. A deportation order that merely foresees some sort of physical constraint for the purpose of being deported is not sufficient to order the detention of a person.

  • Mikolenko v. Estonia, 2009 (on duration of detention with view of deportation, see points 50-72)

  • Galliani v. Romania, 2008. Before being held in detention for removal, persons must be ordered to leave the country and given the choice to leave the country of their free will. 

  • Ismoilov and other v. Russia, 2009. “Quality of law” in the Sense of the Convention refers to the rule of law and implies that a law is sufficiently accessible, precise and foreseeable in its application, in order to avoid all risk of arbitrariness. 

  • S.D. v. Greece, 2009 (only in French; on detention with view of deportation and inadequate judicial remedy, in particular see points 55-77, 82-85)

  • Raza v. Bulgaria, 2010 (in particular, on detention in view of deportation and judicial remedy, see points 71-79)
  • Louled Massoud v. Malta, 2010 (in particular, on effective remedies to establish lawfulness of detention see Points 29-47; on general principles on detention see Points 48-83)
  • Kanagaratnam v. Belgium, 2011. Detention of minors together with parent in a closed transit centre.

  • Yoh-Ekale Mwanje c. Belgique, 2011. In case of HIV-positive detainees authorities have to consider alternatives to detention and take all measures to protect the detainees’ health and prevent a worsening of their condition.

  • M.S.S. v. Belgium and Greece, 2011 (in particular, on inhuman treatment in detention see Points 205-234, 362-368, 406-41

  • M. and Others v. Bulgaria, 2011  (in particular, on detention with view to deportation and speedeness of judicial remedy, see points 57-84)
  • Rahimi v. Greece, 2011 (only in French; in particular, on detention of unaccompanied minor, see points 65-96)

  • Popov v. France, 2012. The detention of families amounts to an interference with the right to family life. In case of detention of migrant children, the child’s best interests calls not only for families to be kept together but also for the authorities to do everything in their power to limit the detention of families with young children and effectively protect their right to respect for their family life.

  • Ahmade v. Greece, 2012. Detention in a police station can amount to inhuman and degrading treatment if much longer than strictly necessary.

  • Suso Musa v. Malta, 2013. Detention of asylum seeker for period which, particularly in view of his conditions of detention, was unreasonable.

  • Aden Ahmed v. Malta, 2013. Criteria regarding the lack of personal space, female staff and proper diet, special status and vulnerability of immigration detainees.

  • M.A. v. Cyprus, 2013. Transfer and stay at police headquarters of a group of immigrants with a view to identifying and deporting unlawful residents violated Article 5.1.

  • Horshill v. Greece, 2013. Detention conditions in police stations amounting to degrading treatment.

  • Housein v. Greece, 2013. Detention of an unaccompanied minor in a detention centre for adults as well as in a youth hostel violates Article 5.1. 










Last updated on: 21/11/2013