Saturday

23rd Nov 2019

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

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 year's of archives. 30-day free trial.

... or join 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".

Feature

Widow's plea as EU diplomats debate Magnitsky Act

"If evil is not defeated, it tends to expand", Natalia Magnitskaya, the widow of a Russian anti-corruption activist, has said, as EU diplomats discuss human rights sanctions 10 years after his death.

News in Brief

  1. UK misses UN deadline to return Chagos Islands
  2. PM: Greece will 'shut door' to migrants without rights
  3. CDU leader offers to quit if party doesn't back her
  4. Serbian president confirms Russia spy video
  5. UK to repatriate 'Islamic State' orphans
  6. Man arrested over Maltese journalist murder free on bail
  7. Children with disabilities in Bulgaria isolated, report says
  8. WHO: 80 percent of adolescents don't exercise enough

Stalling on VAT reform costing billions, says Commission

German media outlet Correctiv, along with other newsrooms, have revealed how criminals annually cheat EU states out of billions in VAT fraud. The EU Commission says solutions exist - but member states refuse to budge on tax unanimity.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersEarmarked paternity leave – an effective way to change norms
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Climate Action Weeks in December
  3. UNESDAUNESDA welcomes Nicholas Hodac as new Director General
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersBrussels welcomes Nordic culture
  5. UNESDAUNESDA appoints Nicholas Hodac as Director General
  6. UNESDASoft drinks industry co-signs Circular Plastics Alliance Declaration
  7. FEANIEngineers Europe Advisory Group: Building the engineers of the future
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNew programme studies infectious diseases and antibiotic resistance
  9. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  10. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us