New Court of Justice judgement as regards the material reception conditions

According to the latest judgement of the Court of Justice in Luxembourg the provisions for granting the asylum seekers with the so-called assistance outside the centre for foreigners have to ensure a dignified standard of living.

On 24 February 2014 the Court of Justice of the European Union in Luxembourg gave a judgement in case C-79/13 (Saciri) interpreting the provisions of the Council Directive 2003/9/EC of 27 January 2003 laying down minimum standards for the reception of asylum seekers.

Questions referred to the Court of Justice for a preliminary ruling by a Belgian court were to establish the rules for providing persons applying for international protection with financial allowances for accommodation and stay in the member state during the asylum procedure.

According to the Court judgement a member state may choose the form in which it shall support the foreigners during the procedure for granting refugee status. The state may choose to ensure material reception (i.e. provision of accommodation and board in centres for foreigners) or financial allowance. It is the member state that decides which of the two forms is granted, not the refugee.

However, according to the Directive 2003/9 if the state decides to provide financial allowance to cover the accommodation and costs of living, the allowance must be sufficient. It should be enough to ensure a dignified standard of living, adequate for the health of applicants, and their subsistence by enabling them to obtain housing, if necessary, on the private rental market.

Moreover the Court has emphasized the need for special treatment of persons having specific needs, as referred to in Article 17 of the Directive, i.e. elderly people, disabled people, victims to violence, including victims to torture, children and single mothers. The latter means that there should be different rules for granting allowances to this vulnerable group and the allowances themselves should be of different value.

The new judgement puts in the right perspective the arguments that the Association for Legal Intervention (SIP) has been repeating for years in the dialogue with the Polish decision-makers. SIP has argued that the material assistance provided to asylum seekers in Poland does  not secure a decent standard of living, nor does it enable them to search for accommodation on a free market. According to the Ordinance of the Minister of Interior and Administration of 10 November 2011 on the amount of assistance for foreigners seeking refugee status, the foreigners may be awarded with financial allowance of PLN 12.5 to 25 per person per day (depending on the number of family members). Hence a family of five (an average refugee family) receives about PLN 1 875 monthly, which must be sufficient to rent accommodation in the free market and support the whole family, while renting an average  two-room flat is ca. PLN 2 000. Thus, the allowance does not meet the conditions set forth by the Court. Moreover the law does not foresee granting any additional allowances due to a specific family situation, for example disability or minority of the family members. In the light of the Saciri judgement there is an urgent need to amend the provisions of the above-mentioned  Ordinance and increase the amount of the ensured financial allowances.


photo credits: European Court of Human Rights (Strasbourg) CherryX / CC BY-SA 3.0