Sunday

9th May 2021

EU court to rule on humanitarian visas

  • Syrian refugees in Austria. Humanitarian visa rules differ from one country to the other. (Photo: Josh Zakary)

Is an EU country obliged to grant humanitarian visas to people who are not yet on its territory?

The answer to that question will be decided by the European Court of Justice after a Belgian body filed a case in an emergency procedure, it emerged this weekend.



Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

The foreigners' claims council in Belgium has asked for an EU court ruling in the case of a Syrian family of four who filed a request for a three-month humanitarian visa in the Belgian embassy in Beirut, Lebanon.

The family requested a visa to go to Namur, where a family is ready to welcome them.

The Belgian government has so far refused to grant visas to the family.

On 20 October, the foreigners' claims council ruled that the visa should be granted. Last Wednesday (7 December), a court of appeal upheld the council's decision and said the Belgian government would have to pay €1,000 per member of the family and per day until it abided by the decision.

Belgian interior minister Theo Francken, from the Flemish nationalist N-VA party, insisted over the weekend that "the visa will not be delivered", however.

He said that doing so would create a "dangerous precedent" and would make Belgium "lose control" of its borders.

"It threatens to start an influx in front of our consulates in Beirut and Ankara," said.

On Sunday, Belgian prime minister Charles Michel said that he would not "open the door to humanitarian visas all over the world, allowing visa requests even when there is no link with Belgium."

The foreigners' claims council argues that the government should grant a visa to the family on the basis of the European Convention of Human Rights.

The government, a coalition of Liberals, Christian-Democrats and Flemish nationalists, says that the convention cannot be applied in the Middle East.

The EU Court of Justice is expected to rule on the case in three to five months and its decision will set a legal precedent for EU countries.



For now, the decision to grant humanitarian visas depends on national law and criteria are not harmonised through the EU.


A humanitarian visa does not guarantee refugee status, but people holding it can file an asylum request is any country of the Schengen area after they arrive in the EU.

EU asylum return focus expands police scrutiny

EU interior ministers agreed to start legislative talks with the EU parliament to expand the scope of an asylum database, Eurodac, to include migrants and stateless people.

Opinion

How the EU can make its Syria aid go further

The EU is spending hundreds of millions of euros to educate Syrian children in places such as Lebanon, but without proper auditing and benchmarks.

EU states on hook for humanitarian visas

EU states ought to grant humanitarian visas to people in need, an EU court advisor has said, after Belgium refused permits for a Christian family from Aleppo.

EU court delivers blow to asylum seekers

EU court ruled in favour of Belgium against a Syrian family seeking asylum in the country, in what rights defenders called an "absurd impasse".

Frontex chief: 'about time' MEPs probe his agency

Some 14 MEPs have created a group to probe allegations of rights abuse by the EU's border agency Frontex. Its head, Fabrice Leggeri, welcomed its creation and said it "is about time".

News in Brief

  1. Report: Czech minister plotted to bury evidence on Russian attack
  2. Putin promotes Russia's 'Kalashnikov-like' vaccine
  3. Coronavirus: Indian variant clusters found across England
  4. UN report encourages EU methane cuts
  5. EU court upholds ban on bee-harming pesticides
  6. Israeli tourists welcomed back by EU
  7. EU duped into funding terrorist group, Israel says
  8. Brussels prepares portfolio of potential Covid-19 treatments

Feature

Covid-hit homeless find Xmas relief at Brussels food centre

The Kamiano food distribution centre in Brussels is expecting 20 people every half hour on Christmas Day. For many, Kamiano is also more than that - a support system for those made homeless or impoverished.

Top court finds Hungary and Poland broke EU rules

EU tribunal said Hungary's legislation made it "virtually impossible" to make an asylum application. Restricting access to international protection procedure is a violation of EU rules.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council enters into formal relations with European Parliament
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersWomen more active in violent extremist circles than first assumed
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersDigitalisation can help us pick up the green pace
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCOVID19 is a wake-up call in the fight against antibiotic resistance
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region can and should play a leading role in Europe’s digital development
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council to host EU webinars on energy, digitalisation and antibiotic resistance

Latest News

  1. EU ambassadors flock to Red Square for Putin's parade
  2. MEPs win battle for bigger citizens' voice at Conference
  3. Hungary gags EU ministers on China
  4. Poland and Hungary push back on 'gender equality' pre-summit
  5. EU preparing to send soldiers to Mozambique
  6. EU now 'open' to vaccine waiver, after Biden U-turn
  7. EU mulls using new 'peace' fund to help Libyan coast guard
  8. Poland 'breaks EU law' over judges, EU court opinion says

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us