Wednesday

26th Apr 2017

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.



Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

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".

European states still top media freedom list

Nordic countries Norway, Sweden and Finland still have the world's most free media, according to Reporters Without Borders, but the overall situation is declining.

News in Brief

  1. EU Commission launches probe into Hungary's university law
  2. Scots slowly losing appetite for independence - poll
  3. Council of Europe puts Turkey on watch list
  4. EU to put parental leave on political agenda
  5. Israel cancels German meeting over human rights groups
  6. Hungary's Orban will participate in EU parliament debate
  7. Malta floats cash-for-refugees plan
  8. Ivanka Trump to meet Merkel at Berlin women's conference

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNICEFRace Against Time to Save Millions of Lives in Yemen
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersDeveloping Independent Russian-Language Media in the Baltic Countries
  3. Swedish EnterprisesReform of the European Electricity Market: Lessons from the Nordics, Brussels 2 May
  4. Malta EU 2017Green Light Given for New EU Regulation to Bolster External Border Checks
  5. Counter BalanceCall for EU Commission to Withdraw Support of Trans-Adriatic Pipeline
  6. ACCAEconomic Confidence at Highest Since 2015
  7. European Federation of Allergy and Airways60%-90% of Your Life Is Spent Indoors. How Does Poor Indoor Air Quality Affect You?
  8. European Gaming and Betting AssociationCJEU Confirms Obligation for a Transparent Licensing Process
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region and the US: A Time of Warlike Rhetoric and Militarisation?
  10. European Free AllianceEFA MEPs Vote in Favor of European Parliament's Brexit Mandate
  11. Mission of China to the EUXinhua Insight: China to Open up Like Never Before
  12. World VisionViolence Becomes New Normal for Syrian Children

Latest News

  1. European states still top media freedom list
  2. Let’s not put European public health at risk
  3. Threatened Budapest university calls for EU support
  4. Orban set to face down EU threats
  5. Dont expect 'quick fix' in Syria, China tells EU
  6. Russische schwarze Kassen bedrohen EU Demokratie
  7. Libya commanders in Brussels for migration talks
  8. Mixed review for EU asylum spots in Greece and Italy