A Bangladeshi man with asthma was saved from being deported from France after his lawyer argued that he might face severe health risks and possibly premature death due to the dangerous levels of pollution in his homeland.
In a ruling believed to be the first of its kind in France, the appeals court in Bordeaux overturned an expulsion order against the 40-year-old man as he would face “a worsening of his respiratory pathology due to air pollution” in his country of origin, British daily The Guardian reported.
“To my knowledge, this is the first time a French court has applied the environment as one of its criteria in such a case,” Ludovic Riviere, the unnamed man’s lawyer, told the newspaper.
“It decided my client’s life would be endangered by the air quality in Bangladesh.”
The man arrived in France in 2011 after fleeing persecution in his home country. He settled in Toulouse, found work as a waiter, and in 2015 was given a temporary residence permit as a foreign national requiring medical treatment.
The court took into consideration the fact that the drugs the man is receiving in France are not available in Bangladesh, and that the Bangladeshi health system can only provide the night-time ventilation equipment he needs for his sleep apnea in hospital , the report added.
It also heard evidence that the man’s father had died of an asthma attack at the age of 54, Riviere said, and that since arriving in France and beginning treatment, his respiratory capacity had increased from 58% in 2013 to 70% in 2018.
“For all these reasons, the court decided that sending my client back to his country would mean putting him at real risk of death,” the lawyer said. “Respiratory failure as a result of an asthma attack would be almost inevitable.”
In 2017, however, doctors advising the French immigration authorities recommended that his condition “could be adequately treated in Bangladesh”, and two years later the local Haute-Garonne prefecture issued an expulsion order.
A lower court in Toulouse overturned the deportation order in June last year, purely on the grounds that the relevant drugs were not in fact available in the man’s home country. The Bordeaux court went even further in rejecting the prefecture’s appeal, saying that the environmental criterion must also be taken into account.
Bangladesh has been seeing an alarming increase in deaths due to air pollution in recent years.
The country saw a total of 173,500 deaths in 2019 due to air pollution, which is over 50,000 more than the year 2017, said a global report on air pollution related to health burden. In 2017, the death toll was 123,000 in the country.
Yale and Columbia universities’ Environmental Performance Index ranks Bangladesh 179th in the world for air quality in 2020, while the concentration of fine particles in the air is six times the World Health Organization’s recommended maximum.
Air pollution, both ambient and household, was an extremely high risk factor in the 572,600 deaths in Bangladesh that were caused by noncommunicable disease in 2018, according to WHO figures.