Humanitarian Visas: an asset of the EU´s response to the Refugee emergency!

EPA/YANNIS KOLESIDIS

Refugees use their mobile phones as they sit outside a play room at a temporary center hosting migrants and refugees at the Athens district of Elaionas, Greece, 02 September 2016.

Humanitarian Visas: an asset of the EU´s response to the Refugee emergency!


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The idea to promote a European Humanitarian Visa was launched in the context of the Visa Code Recast file, for which I am the EP´s rapporteur. The wakeup call for that goal was the current migration crisis, particularly, the unacceptable death toll in the Mediterranean. The extent of the tragedy proves beyond doubt the necessity of the objective. A humanitarian Visa is needed to provide for one legal pathway to reach the territory of the Member States for persons seeking international protection in a safe manner. As such, those visas would be based on historic precedents in which the issuing of visas helped to save the lives of many Europeans, as well as on the current best practices of some specific Member States.

This call for humanitarian visas is, among others, a poignant contribution of the European Parliament for addressing the migration crisis in a holistic way. It has been articulated not only in this report on the Visa Code but also in the European Parliament Resolution of 12 April 2016 on the situation in the Mediterranean and the need for a holistic EU approach to migration, and in the European Parliament Resolution of 10 September 2015 on migration and refugees in Europe. According to its foundations, it is actively supported by numerous civil society organisation, lawyers, churches, agencies, and experts.

Hence, it is no surprise that the Humanitarian visas have been repeatedly discussed in the EU context of the so called Refugee Crisis, although this discussion has not lead to a concrete result so far. 

The way to put them in place was by tabling amendments included in the Visa Code, as this is the only legislative text currently being discussed which covers the issuing of visas and the work of EU consulates around the world.  However, the idea might well be dealt with in a separate legal instrument. It is acknowledged that the concept of humanitarian visas requires a new positive way of thinking asylum and visa policies together, and that it could be implemented only after a transition period during which its detailed functioning would be decided upon on the basis of a more thorough analysis.

When adopting the report on the Visa Code, the LIBE Committee voted in favour of a series of amendments on humanitarian visas “en bloc” (41 votes in favour, 8 abstentions and 6 against). This “bloc” contained a series of amendments for the creation of a “European Humanitarian Visa” and a series of amendments aiming to strengthen the existing provisions. Two different possibilities to shape-up the idea of humanitarian visas are envisaged in our report.

How could the Humanitarian Visas work in practice?

The basic principle of the humanitarian visa is that a person who stands a high chance of receiving international protection if he or she reaches the territory of a Member State, there has to be at least an option of a safe route to that particular Member State.

The underlying assumption is that some kind assessment has to take place in the third country. The depth and duration of this assessment remains yet to be defined. It would make sense to ensure that the content and result of this assessment will be available for Member States’ asylum authorities so as to avoid cumbersome duplications. The procedure can therefore be read as part of the asylum procedure taking place outside the EU. And that would prove to be of the essence for the kind of positive decision that history and humanity require from us now in this most demanding juncture. We have a graveyard in the Mediterranean Sea. What we are doing is not enough. We need a substantial breakthrough: Humanitarian visas, now.

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