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*Law of Aliens

Published on September 8th, 2018 | by Georgia Archonti

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France: Constitutional Council upholds principle of “fraternity” and safeguards humanitarian assistance to migrants regardless of their status

On 6 July 2018, the French Constitutional Council delivered its decision no. 2018-717/718 QPC, which concerned a “priority preliminary ruling on constitutionality” (“question prioritaire de constitutionnalité“) of provisions under Article L622 of the French Code for Entry and Residence of Foreign Persons and the Right of Asylum (CESEDA). The question was brought by the Court of Cassation in relation to the proceedings against Cédric Herrou and the so-called “crime of solidarity” (délit de solidarité).

The Constitutional Council noted that the freedom to help others with a humanitarian goal, without taking into consideration the legality of their stay in France, can be inferred from the “principle of fraternity”, which has constitutional value. It is up to the legislator to ensure that there is a fair balance between the principle of fraternity and the safeguarding of public order. The Constitutional Council observes that assisting a foreigner with his transit (“circulation”) in the country does not necessarily lead to an unlawful situation, differently from assisting with the irregular entry into the French territory. Therefore, by condemning all assistance to the transit of an irregularly staying migrant, including assistance motivated by humanitarian purposes, the legislator has not ensured a fair balance between the principle of fraternity and the safeguard of public order. Therefore, the term “for irregular residence” under the first paragraph of Article L622-4 must be declared unconstitutional.

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