11 October 2001
Judgment of the Court of Justice in Joined Cases C-95/99 to C-98/99 and C-180/99
Mervett Khalil and Others v Bundesanstalt für Arbeit ; Mohamad Nasser v Landeshauptstadt Stuttgart ; Meriem Addou v Land Nordrhein-Westfalen
Refugees or stateless persons cannot claim payment of family benefits under Community law where they have travelled directly from a non-Member State and are in a situation having no factor linking them with Community law
The Court of Justice has given a ruling in the case of Palestians, Kurds,
Algerians and Moroccans who, with their families, travelled to Germany and reside there as stateless persons or refugees
Mrs Khalil and her husband (Case C-95/99) are Palestinians from the Lebanon who, in flight from the civil war in the Lebanon, arrived in Germany (in 1984 and 1986 respectively) where they have since lived continuously. They have been refused recognition as political refugees. Mr Chaaban and his wife (Case C-96/99) are Kurds from the Lebanon who, in flight from the civil war in the Lebanon, arrived in Germany in 1985 where they have since lived continuously. They have been refused recognition as political refugees. Mr Chaaban, like his children, has Lebanese nationality. Mr Osseili and his wife (Case C-97/99) arrived in Germany in 1986. Mr Osseili has a Lebanese travel document for Palestinian refugees. His application for asylum has been unsuccessful. Mr Nasser (Case C-98/99) holds a Lebanese travel document for Palestinian refugees. He has resided in Germany with his family since 1985. He has been refused recognition as a political refugee. He has had a residence permit since 30 April 1998.
Under German law, Mrs Khalil and her husband, Mrs Chaaban, Mr Osseili and Mr Nasser are regarded as stateless persons.
Since those persons had the grant of child benefit discontinued under new German legislation during the period from December 1993 to March 1994, they submitted in support of their actions challenging the decisions depriving them of those advantages that they and/or their spouses had to be regarded as stateless persons and, consequently, should enjoy family benefits in accordance with Community law which would enable them to be treated in the same way as German nationals and other nationals of the Member States of the European Union. According to them, payment of those benefits should not have been made conditional on possession of a specific residence document.
Mrs Addou (Case C-180/99) is an Algerian national whose husband, like her children, had Moroccan nationality. He subsequently became a German national by naturalisation, after having enjoyed the status of refugee within the meaning of the Geneva Convention. Mrs Addou and herhusband travelled in 1988 from Algeria and Morocco to Germany where they have since lived continuously. They have been refused the right of asylum but, in February 1994, they received a residence authorisation and, in May 1996, a residence permit.
Mrs Addou brought an application challenging the refusal of the Land Nordrhein-Westfalen to pay her child-raising allowance. That application was granted by the appeal court which held that the possession of a residence document was immaterial since, as a member of the family of a recognised refugee, Mrs Addou had to be treated in the same way as German nationals and other nationals of the Member States of the European Union, pursuant to Community law.
The persons concerned rely on the Community regulation on social security for migrant workers and their families which includes in its scope of application workers who are stateless persons or refugees residing within the territory of one of the Member States, as well as the members of their families and their survivors. In respect of the term "refugee", the Community legislation refers to the international Convention relating to the Status of Refugees (Geneva, 1951) and, in respect of the term "stateless person", to the international Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons (New York, 1954).
The Bundessozialgericht, as final court of appeal, referred a number of questions to the Court of Justice of the European Communities on the validity and interpretation of that Community regulation.
As regards validity, the Bundessozialgericht has doubts about the power of the Community legislature to regulate the situation of stateless persons and refugees.
The Court of Justice pointed out that, in 1957, the original six Member States were all already contracting parties to the Geneva Convention of 1951 (refugees) and the New York Convention of 1954 (stateless persons).
The Court of Justice also pointed out that the ultimate objective of coordinating the national social security schemes, which was already provided for in the EEC Treaty of 1957, is to ensure as complete freedom of movement for workers as possible.
The Court of Justice found that the Council cannot be criticised for having included stateless persons and refugees resident on the territory of the Member States, in order to take into account the international obligations of those States, within the scope of the Community regulation on social security for migrant workers and their families.
The German court also sought to ascertain whether workers who are refugees or stateless persons residing in the territory of one of the Member States and members of their families may rely on the rights conferred by that Community regulation where they have travelled to that Member State directly from a non-member country and have not moved within the Community.
The Court of Justice pointed out that the objective of Community law in respect of migrant workers is coordination of the social security schemes of the Member States and payment of benefits under those coordinated schemes. The Community regulation on social security for migrant workers and their families lays down a whole set of rules founded upon the prohibition of discrimination on grounds of nationality or residence and upon the maintenance by a worker of his rights acquired by virtue of one or more social security schemes which are or have been applicable to him.
The Court referred to its earlier case-law according to which those rules do not apply to situations which have no factor linking them to Community law. The advantages derived from the status of migrant worker within the European Union cannot be granted to stateless persons or refugees residing in a Member State where they are in a situation which is confined in all respects within that one Member State.