The urgent applications judge at the Conseil d’État has responded to applications by several associations by suspending the French government’s decision to interrupt the issue of family reunification visas for the spouses and children of non-European aliens residing in France because of the Covid-19 epidemic. The judge held that the decision represented a disproportionate breach of the right to a normal family life and the best interests of children.
On 18 March 2020, the French Prime Minister decided to limit the ability of people from abroad to travel to France as part of efforts to combat Covid-19. While the spouses and children of French or European citizens have since been allowed to join them, family members of nationals of other countries living in France are no longer able to, except in a few rare cases.
The urgent applications judge ruling on suspensions at the Conseil d’État, responding to applications by several associations representing aliens and individual applicants, suspended the decision not to issue family reunification visas for these people and require them to obtain a pass.
Limited impact on the spread of the virus
First, the urgent applications judge noted that the number of people benefiting from family reunification measures in normal times was around 60 people a day. The administration had not provided any evidence demonstrating that movements of people at this level would contribute significantly to the risk of spreading Covid-19, while recently strengthened testing and isolation measures aimed at tackling the appearance of new variants could be applied to the people concerned in the same way as other people already permitted to enter French territory under an exemption.
A disproportionate breach of the right to a normal family life and the best interests of children
Secondly, the judge found that the measure at issue constituted a serious breach of the right to a normal family life for all those affected and the best interests of the children concerned, which had persisted continuously for over ten months. However, the people concerned had often been forced, as the situation currently stands, to apply to the urgent applications judge at the Administrative Tribunal in Nantes for their situation to be regularised. Accordingly, and even though European Union law did not, in light of the pandemic, prevent the French Prime Minister from imposing temporary constraints on entering French territory based on regulatory measures justified by health considerations, the decision at issue was not proportionate insofar as it did not provide exemptions for those entitled to family reunification arrangements.
The urgent applications judge at the Conseil d’État therefore held that there was a serious doubt over the legality of the measure at issue, justifying its suspension.