A legislative proposal by Spanish MEP Juan Fernando López Aguilar calling for the issuance of humanitarian visas was approved in December in the European Parliament in Strasbourg. The proposal highlights that humanitarian visas will enable refugees to enter the EU in a legal manner, without having to embark in hazardous journeys with risk to human life.
Currently, EU countries are not obliged to issue a humanitarian visa to asylum seekers for legal entry, according to a March 2017 ruling by the European Court of Justice. Instead, the EU has been using increasingly restrictive migration policies designed to stop people from coming into its territory, such as carrier sanctions and restrictive visa policies, forcing asylum seekers to resort to irregular migration channels. According to European Parliament estimates, 90 per cent of people with international protection in the EU have reached Europe via irregular means.
As a result, more than 30,000 people have died trying to reach Europe via the Mediterranean and other routes since 2000.
Humanitarian visas to address death toll
Humanitarian visas will help reduce the number of people dying at our borders. They will also considerably hurt the business of smugglers and reduce costs related to returning migrants whose claims have been rejected.
The visas will enable the holder to travel safely to the country that issued the papers in order to apply for protection. However, only people who can prove that they are subjected to persecution will benefit. In addition, visa applicants will have to go through a security screening to ensure that they do not pose a security threat.
Despite continuous calls for safe and legal pathways for asylum seekers there is still no legal framework in the EU on how a refugee could legally enter the territory. Currently, 16 EU member states have or have had their own national schemes for issuing humanitarian visas, as reported by the European Agency for Fundamental Rights.
Liberties believes that the approval of a humanitarian visa system is a significant step towards the protection of refugees, which is a fundamental right and is part of core EU values. Now, the EU Commission has until the end of March to present a corresponding proposal in order to start the trilogue negotiations.