EU member states cannot imprison foreigners simply because they illegally entered the country, the bloc's top court ruled Tuesday, in a case involving a Ghanaian woman apprehended in France.

The European Union has been grappling with an influx of migrants and asylum seekers since last year. Many member states are now seeking to crack down on economic migrants, who have no right to stay, in order to better manage those deserving international protection.

The case before the European Court of Justice (ECJ) predates last year's migration surge, but could have a bearing on decisions taken in response to the high number of arrivals.

In March 2013, Selina Affum of Ghana was stopped by French police at the Channel Tunnel crossing to Britain on board a coach travelling from the Belgian city of Ghent to London.

Affum presented a passport bearing another person's name and photo. She was placed into custody for illegally entering France. But Affum challenged her treatment and a French court turned to the ECJ for advice on the legality of her imprisonment.

The Luxembourg judges ruled that taking into custody a non-EU national only for illegal entry violates the bloc's rules and undermines their effectiveness, since this delays procedures to send the person back to their country of origin or a country of transit.

The court said that EU rules only allow imprisonment if foreigners stay on despite being the subject of a return procedure; if there is a risk of the process being "compromised"; if the person breaches a ban on re-entering the member state; or if they commit other crimes.

In two other migration-related cases on Tuesday, the Luxembourg judges also ruled that asylum seekers are allowed to challenge their transfer from one EU member state to another.

Under the bloc's rules, asylum seekers are supposed to file their claim for protection in the first member state they reach.

But the ECJ found that asylum seekers can appeal their transfer to another member state if they believe EU rules were inappropriately applied, even when the other country has already agreed that it has responsibility for the asylum claim.

The cases featured an Iranian man who sought asylum in the Netherlands in 2014 despite having been granted a visa in France the year before, and a Syrian man whose asylum claim in Sweden was rejected in 2014 because he had applied for protection in Slovenia.

Both men challenged their transfers back to France and Slovenia.

The Iranian man said he had only spent one night in Paris before returning home and that the asylum claim he later filed in the Netherlands was his first. The Syrian man argued that he had left Slovenia for more than three months before seeking asylum in Sweden and claimed that the asylum system in Slovenia had deficiencies.

Latest news

Syrian opposition rules out future role for President al-Assad

The Syrian opposition said Friday it would not accept any role for President Bashar al-Assad in the future of the war-torn country, reacting to a recent US shift saying that removing al-Assad is no longer a priority for Washington.

Russian Army integrates breakaway forces of Georgian province

Parts of the small fighting forces of the Georgian breakaway province of South Ossetia have been placed under Russian military control, Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said on Friday.

Czech Republic's Pilsner Urquell beer is now Japanese

Japanese brewing company Asahi completed its takeover of the Czech brewery Pilsner Urquell on Friday, Asahi said in a statement.

Judge approves 25-million-dollar settlement of Trump University case

A US district judge on Friday approved a 25-million-dollar settlement of lawsuits and state fraud allegations against Trump University, the US president's now-defunct business venture.

Former Thai premier Thaksin to junta on reconciliation: 'Cut me out'

Former Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra on Friday announced that he is not interested in the junta-led reconciliation process, three days after the junta handed him a half-a-billion-dollar tax bill for his past business deal.

Dalic: We welcome possible deal between Agrokor and banks

The government welcomes the possibility of an agreement being concluded between the Agrokor food company and creditor banks, and the bill on vitally important companies is not a fallback plan but the result of the government's care for the overall economic and financial stability of Croatia, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Economy Martina Dalic told a press conference in Zagreb on Friday.

Croatia, China sign action plan for cooperation in agriculture

The Croatian and Chinese ministries of agriculture on Friday signed an action plan for cooperation in the field of agriculture for the period 2017-2018, the Croatian ministry said in a statement.

ZSE indices up, Agrokor shares in focus of investor interest

The Zagreb Stock Exchange (ZSE) indices on Friday rose by more than 1.8%, with stocks of the Agrokor food and retail concern being in the focus of investor interest again.

Berlin police defend handling of Berlin market attacker

Berlin police defended themselves on Friday against accusations that they stopped surveillance on Berlin Christmas market attacker despite knowing in June 2016 he was dangerous.

Croatia, creditors tailor emergency measures to save tottering giant

Croatia's tottering retail and food giant Agrokor reached an agreement with its creditors, putting its debts standby and allowing it to continue working during emergency restructuring, the Croatian branch of Austria's Erste Bank said Friday.

Agrokor's creditors say standstill agreement to go into force today

A standstill agreement regarding the Agrokor concern's existing financial obligations to banks will take effect on Friday, additional capital will be injected into the concern in the coming days and the concern will be actively restructured, which includes a change of its management, it was said on Friday after a meeting between Agrokor's suppliers and creditor banks.

Palestinians, UN slam Israel's new settlement plan

Palestinians, Israeli activists and the UN lambasted the government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Friday, a day after it gave the go-ahead for the first new West Bank settlement in a quarter of a century.

South Sudan rebels release three abducted foreign oil workers

South Sudanese rebels have released three foreign engineers they abducted in early March in the oil-rich Upper Nile region, Foreign Affairs Ministry official Mawein Makol Arik said on Friday.

Turkish opposition: Imprisoned party chief has gone on hunger strike

The head of Turkey's pro-Kurdish opposition party has launched a hunger strike from prison.

European leagues threaten Champions League schedule clashes

The European Professional Football Leagues (EPFL) on Friday threatened schedule clashes on Champions League matchdays in an ongoing dispute with the governing body UEFA.

Danish court revokes citizenship of IS volunteer

A Danish appellate court on Friday stripped a man of his Danish citizenship for volunteering to fight for the extremist Islamic State in Syria.

Banks and Agrokor agree on key elements of standstill agreement

Member banks of the coordinating committee of financial creditors and representatives of the Agrokor food company have in principle agreed on key elements of a standstill agreement, which is expected to be signed later today, announcing changes in the company's management team, Erste Bank said in a statement on Friday afternoon.

Syrian man on trial in Sweden; mosque attack labelled terrorism

A Syrian man went on trial Friday in the southern Swedish city of Malmo, charged with terrorism and arson after an attack last year on a building used as an assembly hall by Shiite Muslims.