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Denial of benefits to foreign families is not discriminatory: ECHR

ECHR headquarters in Strasbourg
ECHR headquarters in Strasbourg AFP

Depriving foreign parents allowances for their children brought to France outside of official family reunification programmes is not discriminatory, the European Court of Human Rights has ruled, affecting thousands of families in the country.

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The case was brought to the court in Strasbourg by two Congolese families who struggled for years before the French courts for benefits through the National Fund for Family Allowances (CAF).

The families have certainly been treated differently than French families, the European judges recognised, but those differences are “not exclusively based on nationality,” they said.

“The applicants have been refused family allowances because of the irregular nature of their children’s entry into France, as a result of voluntary behaviour that is contrary to the law,” the seven judges said in their unanimous decision, which is final.

Antoine Math, an economist with the Institute of Economic and Social Research (IRES) and an activist for foreigners' rights in France, told news agency AFP that the issue concerns around 9,000 foreign children in France.

It is common that families enter the country to later become regularised, he said. The family allowance offices refuse to take into account children born abroad if they do not come to France through the family reunification process, regardless of the administrative status of their parents.

The ECHR said that the procedure is justified "to exercise control of childcare conditions".

Citizens of countries linked to the European Union by an association agreement, including Algerians, Moroccans, Tunisians and Turks, are not affected by these restrictions and should receive the same family benefits as French people, the Supreme Court ruled in 2013.

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