EU refugee crisis
Migrants disembark from a train after arriving at the station in Botovo, Croatia before walking to the Hungarian border, Sept. 23, 2015. REUTERS/Antonio Bronic

The European Union Court of Justice announced Monday that asylum seekers can be detained on grounds of national security or public order. The ruling came in the case of an individual who applied for asylum to the Netherlands in 1995, was rejected in 1996, and then re-applied in 2012 and 2013.

In 2014, the Dutch State Secretary for Security and Justice rejected the last of these applications, ordered the individual to leave the EU immediately and imposed a 10-year entry ban on him. According to the court, the applicant was convicted on 21 charges, and had been sentenced to fines and terms of imprisonment for various offences — mostly theft — between 1999 and 2015.

In 2015, the applicant was arrested for theft and failure to comply with the entry ban imposed on him, following which he was sentenced to a further term of imprisonment. He was later held in detention as an asylum seeker, because he had made a fourth application for asylum while serving his prison sentence, the court said.

“The Court has today given judgment in the case, which has been dealt with under the urgent preliminary ruling procedure. It finds, first, that the detention measure, for which the Reception Conditions Directive provides, genuinely meets an objective of general interest recognized by the EU,” the statement from the court read.

“The Court points out that the protection of national security and public order also contributes to the protection of the rights and freedoms of others. The Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU states in that regard that everyone has the right, not only to liberty, but also to security of person,” the statement read.

The court added: “Given the importance of the right to liberty and the gravity of the interference with that right which detention represents, the Court stresses that limitations on the exercise of that right must apply only in so far as is strictly necessary. It notes that the power to detain an asylum seeker is subject to compliance with a series of conditions which concern, in particular, the period of detention (which must be as short as possible)."

According to the court, the concept of “public order” includes any event linked to "the disturbance of the social order which any infringement of the law involves — of a genuine, present and sufficiently serious threat affecting one of the fundamental interests of society," while "public security" covers both the "internal security of a Member State and its external security."

The court also stated that despite allowing EU countries to adopt detention measures on grounds of national security or public order, the Reception Conditions Directive — which establishes common standards for living conditions of asylum applicants — does not disregard the level of protection provided by the European Convention on Human Rights, which allows the detention of a person "against whom action 'is being taken' with a view to deportation."