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The Concept of Integration in the Jurisprudence of the European Court of Human Rights

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Integration has become a recurring theme of national immigration policies; and there has been a corresponding normative development of the concept to a certain degree in the European Union, both in soft policy and through references to integration in legally binding immigration measures. The difficulty in defining integration is a pervasive problem encountered by lawyers and sociologists attempting to understand the phenomenon. This article argues that the development of the concept of integration by the European Court of Human Rights has an important contribution to make to the debate, with the potential to provide a legal framework within which to situate integration policies at the national and the EU level. It assesses the concept of integration employed by the European Court of Human Rights, analysing the Court’s Article 8 immigration jurisprudence in terms of two core issues: first, the conception of integration employed in the jurisprudence of the European Court of Human Rights; and second, the implications of the development of the concept in terms of impacting on the right to remain in a State Party and family reunification, each a key integration issue. The article concludes that while the jurisprudence relating to what actually constitutes ‘integration’ is very much in its infancy, the express consideration of integration as a factor in the balancing exercise undertaken by the Court in the expulsion cases signifies the start of a normative development of the concept of integration by the European Court of Human Rights. Nevertheless, it remains to be seen whether the increased emphasis of the Court on the integration criterion in the Article 8 expulsion cases influences the Court’s approach to key integration issues such as family reunification and in turn whether this filters down to legislators and policymakers at the national level.


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