The applicant is from Western Sahara and identifies as a Sahrawi, a territory occupied by Morocco. Having fled to France, he argued that he should qualify as a stateless person even though his birth certificate indicates that he has Moroccan nationality. He argued that this matter should be referred to the CJEU for a preliminary ruling.
- Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons, New York, 28 September 1954 – Article 1
Council of Europe
- European Convention on Human Rights
- Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union
- Treaty on the Functioning of the EU - Article 267
- Regulation (EU) No 604/2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council of June 26, 2013
The applicant, born in 1978 in Western Sahara fled the country in 2013 to reach France. His refugee application was denied in 2014 by OFPRA (French bureau for the protection of refugees and stateless persons) and one year later by CNDA (National Asylum Court). The prefect of his region rejected his request for a residence permit and made an expulsion order. The applicant challenged this decision at both the Administrative Tribunal and the Administrative Court of Appeal, unsuccessfully.
In 2017, OFPRA denied the applicant status of stateless person. He contested this decision before the Administrative Tribunal, which rejected his claim in 2020. He appealed to the Administrative Court of Appeal.
The applicant argued that it was necessary for the domestic court to refer a question to the CJEU for a preliminary ruling. In particular the applicant argued it was a matter for the CJEU to decide whether it is lawful under EU law for a national authority on asylum - OFPRA – to deny the status of a stateless person to an applicant of a non-autonomous and occupied territory – Western Sahara - on the basis that the occupying power - Morocco – imposed on him Moroccan nationality in violation of humanitarian and human rights law.
He also claimed that the judgment of the Administrative Tribunal is not sufficiently substantiated. He added that the judgment was based on an error of fact as the applicant established that the indication of Moroccan nationality on his birth certificate was unlawful since the occupying power of Morocco had no right to impose Moroccan nationality on him, and that international law forbids occupying powers to impose their nationality to the natives of an occupied territory. Moreover, contrary to what OFPRA stated, the applicant argued that he cannot be eligible to apply for Moroccan nationality because Morocco and Western Sahara are two distinct territories.
Finally, the applicant argues that the Administrative Tribunal committed an error of law when denying him the status of stateless person because it was established that he was not able to reach the competent Moroccan authorities without endangering his life due to tense relations between Moroccan authorities and Western Sahara. OFPRA recognised his origin as Sahrawi, his residence in Laâyoune and his involvement in Gdem Izik camp.
OFPRA argued that the Court did not have to refer the case to the CJEU for a preliminary ruling. It also argued that the applicant did not take sufficient steps to request Spanish nationality from the Spanish authorities.
The Administrative Court of Appeal confirmed the judgment of the first instance Administrative Tribunal and rejected the applicant’s case.
On the lawfulness of the judgement:
The Court held that the obligation on the domestic judge to explain the reasons for his refusal to refer one applicant’s question to the CJEU only applies to Courts that rule as a last instance. As it is not the case here, the judgment is valid even though the first instance Administrative Tribunal did not answer his conclusions on this matter.
On the conclusions regarding the annulment of the judgment:
The Court considers that the judgment is thoroughly motivated in law and in fact. It considered that the applicant did not provide sufficient evidence that he was a stateless person and that he was belonging to the categories of stateless persons as recognised by Article L. 812-2 of the CESEDA.
The Court rejected the applicant’s arguments based on his involvement in the Gdeim Izik camp since this relates to his application as a refugee and not as a stateless person.
The Court added that while the contested judgment was based on the birth certificate of the applicant and the fact that he should have applied to Moroccan nationality, it held that it was possible for the applicant to request Spanish nationality because of his father’s nationality. The Court therefore concluded that the applicant should have carried out sufficient actions in front of the Spanish authorities in order to request Spanish nationality before being able to request the status as a stateless person.
The Administrative Court of Appeal denied the applicant the status as a stateless person.
L'association des Avocats pour la défense des droits des étrangers (ADDE) intervened in favour of the applicant.