No violation of Article 8 in withdrawing a permanent residence permit due to conviction of drug trafficking

In the case of Veljkovic-Jukic v. Switzerland (application no. 59534/14, 21.07.2020) the European Court of Human Rights held that there had been no violation of Article 8 (right to respect for private and family life) of the European Convention on Human Rights. 

The case concerned the withdrawal of the permanent residence permit of a Croatian national who has lived in Switzerland since the age of 14, because of her criminal conviction for drug trafficking, and her possible removal from Switzerland. 

The Court considered that the decision to withdraw the applicant permanent resident permit and to order her removal from Switzerland amounted to an interference with her right to respect for her “private” and “family” life, given the very long period that she had been resident in Switzerland and the fact that she lived there with her husband and children. The interference had been in accordance with the Federal Aliens Act and pursued a legitimate aim: the prevention of disorder or crime. As to whether the measure was necessary in a democratic society, the Court noted the following.

The Court also found that Switzerland had not overstepped the margin of appreciation afforded to it, particularly given the seriousness of her conviction for a drug-related offence and the fact that the applicant and her family members could integrate without major difficulties in one of the destination countries proposed by the Federal Supreme Court: Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia or Serbia. 

The Court noted that the applicant had been refused entry to Swiss territory for a period of seven years (until 30 August 2021), and that the Federal Aliens Act enabled her to request a temporary suspension of this exclusion order so that she could visit her family members in Switzerland

In consequence, having regard in particular to the seriousness of Ms Veljkovic-Jukic’s conviction for a drug-related offence, and the fact that she and her family members could integrate without major difficulties in one of the destination countries proposed by the Federal Supreme Court (Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia or Serbia), the Court considered that Switzerland had not overstepped the margin of appreciation afforded to it. There had been no violation of Article 8 of the Convention. 

However, the Court considered it desirable that the national authorities reassess Ms Veljkovic-Jukic’s situation in the light of the developments since the Federal Supreme Court’s judgment prior to deciding whether to enforce the measure, having regard in particular to her conduct throughout the proceedings and the possibility, available to her, of applying for a new residence permit (section 43 of the Federal Aliens Act).

References from the official website of the European Court of Human Rights