Applying the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) to immigration cases has always been a balancing exercise between the effective protection of human rights and the Contracting States' autonomy to regulate migration flows. In its recent case law, the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg (ECtHR) has considerably extended the protective scope of Article 8 ECHR by granting autonomous human rights protection to the long-term resident status independent of the existence of family bonds under the heading of ‘private life’. This has important repercussions for the status of legal and illegal immigrants across Europe, since the new case law widens the reach of human rights law to the legal conditions for leave to remain, effectively granting several applicants a human right to regularize their illegal stay. The contribution analyses the new case law and develops general criteria guiding the application of the ECHR to national immigration laws and the new EU harmonization measures adopted in recent years.
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