Humanitarian visa programme approved by EU committee

Humanitarian visa programme
© iStock/Joel Carillet

The European Civil Liberties Committee has approved a legislative proposal which would establish a European Humanitarian Visa.

The humanitarian visa, which was approved by the committee on Wednesday, would allow refugees to access Member States and their embassies in order to submit an application for international protection.

In spite of numerous requests and announcements for safe and legal pathways across Europe for refugees, no standardised system of protected entry procedures exists within the union; meaning that due to a lack of options for lawful entry, up to 90 per cent of refugees enter Member States illegally. The new measure argues that this lack of coalescence, and the attendant risk placed on Europe-bound refugees, breaches Member States’ fundamental rights obligations to guarantee the right to asylum.

The committee noted that the option of a humanitarian visa would reduce deaths in transit of refugees, combat people smuggling and human trafficking; and alleviate administrative concerns of arrivals, reception and processing of asylum claims. It also raised the issue of finances, saying the arrangement would contribute to minimising participating countries’ direct and indirect costs for asylum, immigration, law enforcement and search and rescue activities.

In addition to the inherent ethical and financial benefits of introducing an EU-wide humanitarian visa system, the committee observed that a formalised arrangement across the union would enhance mutual trust between Member States and confidence in the system for asylum seekers; and that it would further provide increased legal certainty and the fair application of the existing rules. A paper presented to the committee referred to current EU entry requirements for asylum seekers as “unclear and incomplete”.

In order to qualify for the humanitarian visa, applicants will have to show a well-founded risk of persecution and not already be in another resettlement process. They will be subject to a security screening through national and European databases.

The initiative will be put to a full vote by the European Parliament in November.

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