European Court of Human Rights Condemns France for Traveller Evictions
Budapest, Strasbourg, 17 October 2013: The European Court of Human Rights ruled today that France violated the European Convention on Human Rights when it ordered the eviction of travellers from a site, in events dating back to 2003. The failure of the French authorities and courts to consider the proportionality of the eviction breached Article 8 (right to respect for family life).
The case concerns 25 French nationals who belong to the Travellers community (gens du voyage), and an association called ATD Quart Monde. The applicants had been living on a piece of land for between five and 40 years in the municipality of Herblay, in France. They belonged to a group of 95 people who had settled on the private land, which was intended for camping and caravanning and which, according to the land-use plan, was located in a protected natural area. The municipal authorities brought eviction proceedings against the families, and the French domestic courts issued orders for their forcible eviction. A large number of families left the site, fearing that the eviction orders would be enforced. Only four families were provided alternative accommodation in social housing.
French courts have a responsibility to consider the ‘proportionality’ of the eviction, that is to weigh up all the factors involved, including the rights of the applicants and alternative solutions. In particular, families asked to be provided with new sites, however the request was ignored by the authorities.
“Unfortunately, it is all too common for the French authorities – and courts – to force Roma out of their homes without considering whether it is justified to do so,” said Dezideriu Gergely, ERRC Executive Director. “The ERRC is currently litigating several cases on this very issue in the French courts and the European Court of Human Rights. We hope this judgment will help our clients secure justice.”
The applicants alleged that the eviction procedures brought against them by the French authorities were discriminatory and an interference with their private and family life, therefore violating their rights under Article 8 (right to respect for private and family life), taken alone and in conjunction with Article 14 (prohibition of discrimination) of the European Convention of Human Rights.
The ERRC submitted a third party intervention addressing the issue of the housing situation of Roma and Travellers in France, and argued that based on the Court’s case law “sheds and caravans” as homes of Roma fall within the scope of Article 8 of the Convention, and Article 1 of Protocol No. 1. The brief further noted that the domestic legal system in France is inadequate to address the unique housing circumstances of Roma and travellers in France, and that no effective national remedies existed under the domestic legal system to remedy their homelessness. In its submission, the ERRC enlisted several international legal instruments, including the ECHR, European Social Charter and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, under which France has an obligation to afford Roma, as a particularly vulnerable group, an increased level of protection. In the area of housing this means providing adequate alternative accommodation in cases of forced evictions.
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