Exclusive European Court of Justice Rules Refugees Can Choose Where to Live

The European Court of Justice has ruled that refugees living in Europe can choose freely where to live, contradicting a key part of German asylum policy. Refugees who have been granted subsidiary protection should be “able not only to move freely within their territory but also to choose their place of residence within that territory” the court found. The court considered the case of two people from Syria, Ibrahim Alo and Amira Osso, who came to Germany in 1998 and 2001. Although their asylum applications were denied, they were granted subsidiary protection status. They were directed to particular residences but they contested this in a German court. Under a European Union directive, member states must allow freedom of movement within their territory to persons to whom they have granted subsidiary protection status, under the same conditions as those provided for other non-E.U. citizens who are legally resident there, the court found. Germany’s Federal Administrative Court approached the ECJ to confirm whether the residence condition was compatible with the European directive on freedom of movement. The European court rejected the suggestion that refugees should be told exactly where to live in order to further integration and to spread the burden of social welfare payments.