14 February 2014
On 12 February 2014, the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) heard the complaint of the Tarakhel family against the Swiss government’s order that they be removed to Italy under the Dublin II Regulation. The family submitted that removal would violate their rights under Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights (prohibition of inhuman or degrading treatment) due to the accommodation conditions for asylum seekers in Italy.
The family also argued that, when they appealed against removal, the Swiss authorities failed to give due consideration to the reception conditions in Italy and the best interests of the children, in violation of Articles 8 (right to family life) and 13 (right to an effective remedy).
As well as hearing the submissions of the family’s legal representatives, the Grand Chamber heard from the governments of Switzerland and Italy. The UK, Sweden, Norway and the Netherlands sent written submissions to the court. The AIRE Centre, Amnesty International and ECRE collectively submitted a written intervention, as did Defence for Children.
The Tarakhel family, an Afghan couple and their five children, travelled to Italy via boat from Turkey having resided in Iran for 15 years. The parents were fingerprinted and the family was taken to a reception centre in Italy. The family then left and sought asylum in Austria. Once their asylum application was rejected, the family entered Switzerland, where their removal under the Dublin Regulation to Italy was ordered. When their appeal to the Swiss Federal Administrative Court was refused, the family complained to the ECtHR, which asked the Swiss authorities to halt the family’s removal for the duration of proceedings.
A webcast of the hearing is available online. The Grand Chamber, comprising 17 judges, reserved judgment until a later date.