The European Court of Justice has ruled that non-EU migrants who have illegally crossed borders inside the visa-free Schengen area should not face detention on those grounds.
The Luxembourg-based court ruled on June 7 that, rather than being jailed, migrants staying illegally in the Schengen area should face procedures under Europe's 2008 Return Directive before they are returned to the country from which they came.
That European legislation provides protections so that migrants are not returned to a country in a situation where they would be in danger -- a principle known as non-refoulement.
The 2008 Return Directive also calls on authorities to take into consideration the best interests of children, as well as the family life and the health, of any illegal migrant who faces the prospect of being returned.
Under the directive of the European Parliament and of the European Council, an illegal migrant told to leave has up to 30 days to go voluntarily. After that, removal should not involve excessive force or place the person's life in danger.
The ruling was triggered by the case of a Ghanaian migrant who was found using false Belgian travel documents by French police and placed in police custody on grounds of illegal entry into French territory.
The migrant, Selina Affum, claimed her detention was illegal and a French appeals court referred the case to the European Court of Justice, the EU's highest court.