(Politico) Illegal migrants cannot be jailed merely for crossing borders within the EU’s passport-free Schengen zone, the European Court of Justice ruled Tuesday.
The ECJ was ruling in the case of Selina Affum, a Ghanian woman who was apprehended by French police as she tried to make her way from Belgium to the U.K. using someone else’s passport.
France said Affum tried to enter the country illegally and asked Belgium to take her back.
But the EU court, ruling on Affum’s appeal against detention, said the French request was against the EU’s laws on deporting migrants — the return directive.
“The return directive prevents a national of a non-EU country who has not yet been subject to the return procedure being imprisoned solely because he or she has entered the territory of a Member State illegally across an internal border of the Schengen area,” the court said in a statement.
Judges said the directive gives the migrant a chance to go home voluntarily before the use of forced removal measures, if necessary.