EU Court Puts Brakes on Automatic Deportation of Criminals

(CN) – Authorities can’t deport permanent legal residents solely because they’ve been convicted of a crime that resulted in jail time, the European Court of Justice ruled Thursday.

The EU high court’s ruling stems from the case of a Colombian national living in Spain under a long-term residency permit. The man was convicted of unspecified crimes and received two jail sentences totaling a year and three months.

Spanish authorities immediately initiated removal proceedings, canceled his residency permit and banned him from entering Spain for five years.

Under EU law, however, long-term residents enjoy enhanced protection against deportation and member states must show a serious threat to public policy or security in order to remove them. So the Spanish court hearing the man’s case asked the EU high court whether Spain’s law – removal as a punishment for committing a crime that resulted in a prison sentence of a year or longer – ran afoul of EU law.

In its preliminary ruling, the Luxembourg-based court said the Spanish scheme doesn’t offer enough protections for long-term residents, and that even a prison sentence of a year or more doesn’t justify automatic expulsion. Such matters should instead be decided on a case-by-case basis and with an eye to the individual’s threat to the public or national security, if any.

The Spanish court must decide the man’s case in light of the EU court’s ruling, which is binding.

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