B. v Centre public d’action sociale de Liège (Belgium)
CJEU ruled on the consequences of the automatic suspensive effect of a return decision on social assistance benefits
This request for a preliminary ruling concerns the interpretation of Articles 5 and 13 and Article 14(1)(b) of the Return Directive (Directive 2008/115/EC). The request was made in proceedings between B., a third-country national, and the Centre public d’action sociale de Liège (Public Centre for Social Welfare, Liège, Belgium) (CPAS) regarding a decision of the CPAS to withdraw B.’s entitlement to social assistance.
The applicant requested international protection in 2015 but received a negative decision. She also requested leave to reside based on medical grounds but received a negative decision and an order to leave the country. Her social assistance was withdrawn and she appealed this decision. The Higher Labour Court stayed the proceedings and sent a request for a preliminary ruling to the CJEU. The court asked whether a dispute on social assistance would automatically entail suspension of the return decision, even though that suspension does not result from the application of national legislation.
The CJEU reiterated that under Article 13(1) and (2) of the Return Directive, a third-country national must be afforded an effective remedy to appeal against a return decision, but such a remedy does not necessarily have suspensive effect (see Abdida judgment). However, that remedy must be in accordance with the Charter, Article 47, in compliance with the principle of non-refoulement. Thus, an appeal against a return decision must have automatic suspensive effect, since the enforcement may entail a real risk of refoulement (Gnandi judgment). According to the CJEU, the national judge must interpret national law so as to give effect to the Directie when the national legislation does not meet that obligation. The judge must analyse the non-refoulement argument brought by the applicant and whether the applicant's claim that the enforcement of the return decision does not appear to be manifestly ill-founded and would expose the applicant suffering from a serious illness to a serious risk of grave and irreversible deterioration of the state of health. If the claim does not appear to be manifestly ill-founded, the court would then suspend the return decision from the lodging of the appeal.
Thus, the CJEU held that the Return Directive "must be interpreted as meaning that a national court, hearing a dispute on social assistance, the outcome of which is linked to the possible suspension of the effects of a return decision taken in respect of a third-country national suffering from a serious illness, must hold that an action for annulment and suspension of that decision leads to automatic suspension of that decision" even though the suspension does not result from the application of national legislation and where the "action contains arguments seeking to establish that the enforcement of that decision would expose that third-country national to a serious risk of grave and irreversible deterioration in his or her state of health, which does not appear to be manifestly unfounded, and that legislation does not provide for any other remedy, governed by clear, precise and foreseeable rules, which automatically entail the suspension of such a decision."
Effective remedy; Reception/Accommodation; Return/Removal/Deportation;
European Union, Court of Justice of the European Union [CJEU], B. v Centre public d’action sociale de Liège (Belgium), C‑233/19, ECLI:EU:C:2020:757, 30 September 2020. Link redirects to the English summary in the EASO Case Law Database.