EU court rules against obligation to issue humanitarian visas

Mark Ross
By Mark Ross
March 7, 2017World News

European Union member states do not have to issue entry visas to people at risk of torture or inhumane treatment, the EU’s top court ruled on Tuesday (March 7), cutting off a possible channel for refugees into the bloc.

The decision by the European Court of Justice goes against advice from its advocate general, who said last month that such visas had to be issued under EU law.

The court ruled on a case of a Syrian family from the city of Aleppo which applied for a visa to stay with acquaintances in Belgium in October. Belgian authorities had refused the visa, leading to a court battle.

Belgium’s immigration minister had said at the time that ruling in favour of humanitarian visas would “throw the gates wide open” to asylum-seekers.

The ruling comes as the EU is trying to curb immigration after taking in some 1.6 million refugees and migrants who arrived across the Mediterranean in 2014-2016.

There has been 487 migrant deaths in the Mediterranean as of March 2, according to the International Organization for Migration, higher than the 425 during the first two months of last year.

Boat migrant arrivals in Italy are up more than 57 percent over the same period last year, according to Italian Interior Ministry figures. About half a million have arrived in Italy since the start of 2014, with a record 181,000 arriving in 2016.

EU states have struggled to accommodate the influx, ensure security screening and agree between themselves on how to share the responsibility.

The bloc has also started to arrange treaties with countries south and east of the Mediterranean to have them block people on their way to Europe and to make it easier to send them back.


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