Non-EU citizens with a criminal record cannot automatically be evicted from the bloc if they are the sole custodian of a child with a European nationality, the bloc's top court found Tuesday in two cases relating to Britain and Spain.
Migration is an emotive subject across the European Union, where an influx of more than 1 million people last year fuelled a populist backlash. Immigration fears also played a large role in Britain's referendum decision to leave the bloc.
The European Court of Justice was asked to consider the cases of two non-EU citizens: a Moroccan woman living in Britain with her British daughter and a Colombian man whose Spanish son and Polish daughter live with him in Spain.
The Moroccan woman was given a 12-month prison sentence for trying to supply a prison inmate with a SIM card during a visit, while the man was sentenced to nine months in prison for an undisclosed offence.
Both were subsequently refused a residence permit and served with deportation orders because of their criminal records. This would have forced their children - who are EU citizens - to also leave the bloc.
In such circumstances, the member state in question can only evict people who pose a "genuine, present and sufficiently serious threat" to public security, the Luxembourg-based judges ruled according to a statement.
Any decision must take into account criteria such as the person's length of stay, age, health, family and economic situation, degree of integration and the seriousness of the criminal offense, they added.
It is now up to authorities in Spain and Britain to weigh up the two cases in question.