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News

February 9, 2017

EU countries must issue humanitarian visas – Advocate General of EU Court of Justice

The EU member states must issue visas to people if there are substantial grounds to think that in case of refusal they will be at risk of torture or inhuman treatment. 

It was said in the Opinion of the Advocate General of the Court of Justice of the European Union Paolo Mengozzi.

The advocate has published his Opinion on the case of a family from Aloppo, which Belgium refused to issue visas to.   

The family of two adults and three children applied to the Belgian Embassy in Lebanon last October. 

They stated that one of the members of the family was kidnapped by an armed group, he was beaten and tortures before he was released on payment of a ransom. 

The family also stated that they are Orthodox Christians and therefore there is a huge risk of persecution on account of their religious beliefs.

 Belgium refused the family’s application, stating that they clearly were going to stay in the country for more than three months permitted by visa. In addition, they declared that the EU member states are not obliged to accept everyone who faced “catastrophic situation.” 

The Advocate General considers that the decision contradicts the EU legislation, in particular because the Article 4 (prohibiting torture and inhuman or degrading treatment) of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union was violated. 

“The Advocate General considers that a Member State is required to issue a visa on humanitarian grounds in a situation where there is a serious risk of breach of Article 4… The Advocate General does not accept an interpretation of the Visa Code to the effect that the code merely empowers Member States to issue such visas. His position is based both on the wording and structure of the provisions of the Visa Code and on the need for the Member States, in the exercise of their discretion, to respect the rights guaranteed by the Charter when applying those provisions,” says the Opinion. 

It should be noted that the Opinion of the Advocate General is not binding for the court. 

Belgian mass media have already written that in case the decision about visa issue on humanitarian grounds is made, it will possibly open the new way to Europe for migrants. 

The Belgian Minister for Immigration Theo Francken stated that the Court of Justice made no decisions so far. 

It should be reminded that Francken was fined EUR 30,000 because of his refusal to provide asylum to a Syrian family. 

He refused to pay the fine, considering that he made a correct decision, so bailiffs confiscated his office furniture.