Procedure : 2017/2270(INL)
Document stages in plenary
Document selected : A8-0328/2018

Texts tabled :

A8-0328/2018

Debates :

PV 13/11/2018 - 16
CRE 13/11/2018 - 16

Votes :

PV 14/11/2018 - 14.11
CRE 14/11/2018 - 14.11
Explanations of votes

Texts adopted :


REPORT     
PDF 464kWORD 81k
16.10.2018
PE 623.853v02-00 A8-0328/2018

with recommendations to the Commission on Humanitarian Visas

(2017/2270(INL))

Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs

Rapporteur: Juan Fernando López Aguilar

(Initiative – Rule 46 of the Rules of Procedure)

AMENDMENTS
MOTION FOR A EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT RESOLUTION
 ANNEX TO THE MOTION FOR A RESOLUTION RECOMMENDATIONS AS TO THE CONTENT OF THE PROPOSAL REQUESTED
 EXPLANATORY STATEMENT
 OPINION of the Committee on Women's Rights and Gender Equality
 INFORMATION ON ADOPTION IN COMMITTEE RESPONSIBLE

MOTION FOR A EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT RESOLUTION

with recommendations to the Commission on Humanitarian Visas

(2017/2270(INL))

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to Article 225 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union,

–  having regard to the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, and in particular Articles 4, 18 and 19 thereof,

–  having regard to the Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, signed in Geneva on 28 July 1951 and the 1967 Protocol thereto,

–  having regard to Regulation (EC) No 810/2009 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 13 July 2009 establishing a Community Code on Visas (Visa Code)(1),

–  having regard to the UN Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration and to the UN Global Compact on Refugees which followed the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants, adopted unanimously by the United Nations General Assembly on 19 September 2016,

–  having regard to the European Added Value Assessment on Humanitarian Visas prepared by the European Parliamentary Research Service,

–  having regard to Rules 46 and 52 of its Rules of Procedure,

–  having regard to the report of the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs and the opinion of the Committee on Women's Rights and Gender Equality (A8-0328/2018),

A.  whereas despite numerous announcements and requests for safe and legal pathways offering access to European territory for persons seeking international protection there is currently no harmonisation at Union level of protected entry procedures (PEPs) and no legal framework at Union level for humanitarian visas, i.e. visas issued for the purpose of reaching the territory of the Member States in order to seek international protection;

B.  whereas according to the judgment of the Court of Justice of 7 march 2017 in Case C-638/16(2) Member States are not required, under Union law, to grant a humanitarian visa to persons who wish to enter their territory with a view to applying for asylum, but they remain free to do so on the basis of their national law; whereas this ruling interprets existing Union law which may be modified;

C.  whereas several Member States currently have or have previously had national schemes for issuing humanitarian visas or residence permits to guarantee national protected entry of people in need;

D.  whereas the number of persons admitted on the basis of national entry procedures for humanitarian protection or through resettlement remain low in comparison to the global needs, with significant disparities between Member States; whereas the scope of national entry procedures for humanitarian protection and resettlement is narrowly defined and, in case of resettlement, it is strictly connected to the criteria of vulnerability and registration as a refugee with Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees;

E.   whereas - as a result - an estimated 90% of those granted international protection have reached the Union through irregular means, which leads to them being stigmatised before they even arrive at the external borders of the Member States;

F.   whereas single women travelling alone or with children, women heads of household, pregnant and lactating women, people with disabilities, adolescent girls and elderly women are among those who are particularly vulnerable along migration routes to Europe and are facing particular greater risks of gender-based violence, such as rape, violence and being targets of smugglers and traffickers to be sexually and economically exploited; whereas women and girls furthermore tend to be more vulnerable to all forms of exploitation including labour exploitation and sexual exploitation along the migration routes to the Union and are often being forced to survival sex in exchange for continuing their journey;

G.   whereas the human cost of these policies has been put at 30 000 deaths at least at the Union's borders since 2000; whereas a Union legal framework is urgently needed as one means to address the intolerable death toll in the Mediterranean and on the migration routes to the Union, to truly combat human smuggling, exposure to trafficking in human beings, to labour exploitation and violence, to manage the orderly arrival, dignified reception and fair processing of asylum claims and to optimise Member States’ and Union budget for asylum, procedures, border control and search and rescue activities as well as to achieve coherent practices in the Union asylum acquis;

H.   whereas Parliament has tried to include provisions in this vein in Regulation (EC) No 810/2009;

I.   whereas both Council and the Commission have rejected these amendments, on the ground, among others, that such provisions should not be included in the Regulation (EC) No 810/2009, given its scope covering short-stay visas only;

J.  whereas Parliament, faced with the Commission’s inaction, has therefore decided to proceed with drawing up this legislative own-initiative report on humanitarian visas;

K.   whereas intensive work was undertaken, including with the help of experts, to draw up the recommendations which are annexed to this motion;

1.  Requests the Commission to submit, by 31 March 2019, on the basis of point (a) of Article 77(2) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU), a proposal for a Regulation on establishing a European Humanitarian Visa, following the recommendations set out in the Annex hereto;

2.  Considers that Member States should be able to issue a European humanitarian visa to persons seeking international protection, to allow those persons to enter the territory of the Member State issuing the visa for the sole purpose of making an application for international protection in that Member State;

3.  Considers that European humanitarian visas should be complementary to and not substitute the already existing national entry procedures for humanitarian protection, resettlement procedures and spontaneous applications under international refugee law;

4.  Considers that any initiative on European humanitarian visas should be without prejudice to other migration policy initiatives including those aiming to address root causes of migration;

5.  Emphasises the pressing need of safe and legal pathways to the Union, of which humanitarian visas should be one, also as especially important from a gender perspective since women are particularly vulnerable and therefore more exposed to sexual and gender-based violence along routes and in reception centres; emphasizes that often vulnerable economic and other type of dependencies put women and girls in third countries in a situation where it is even more difficult for them than for men to safely seek asylum;

6.  Considers that part of the financial implications of the requested proposal should be covered by the general budget of the Union as a practical expression of the principle of solidarity and fair sharing of responsibility, including its financial implications, between the Member States, in accordance with Article 80 TFEU;

7.  Instructs its President to forward this resolution and the accompanying recommendations to the Commission and the Council, and to the national parliaments, the Court of Justice, the European External Action Service, the European Asylum Support Office, the European Border and Coast Guard Agency, the European Union Agency for Law Enforcement Cooperation and the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights.

(1)

  OJ L 243, 15.9.2009, p. 1.

(2)

  Judgment of the Court of Justice of 7 March 2018, X and X v État belge, C-638/16, ECLI:EU:C2017:173).


ANNEX TO THE MOTION FOR A RESOLUTION RECOMMENDATIONS AS TO THE CONTENT OF THE PROPOSAL REQUESTED

The European Parliament considers that the legislative act to be adopted should:

1.  FORM AND TITLE OF THE INSTRUMENT TO BE ADOPTED

–   be a separate legal act to be adopted in the form of a regulation entitled “Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council establishing a European Humanitarian Visa”,

2.  LEGAL BASE

–   have point (a) of Article 77(2)(a) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) as legal basis,

3.  JUSTIFICATION

–   be justified by:

–   the current legal gap in Union law which, in addition to resettlement procedures applicable to vulnerable refugees, does not foresee procedures, neither in the visa, nor in the borders or asylum acquis, for the admission to the territory of the Member States of persons seeking protection, with an estimated 90 % of the persons subsequently being recognised as refugees and beneficiaries of subsidiary protection reaching the territory of the Member States irregularly,(1) often through life-threatening routes,

–   the risk of fragmentation as Member States increasingly set up their own programmes of humanitarian admission and procedures, going against the general aim under Article 78(1) TFEU to develop a common policy on asylum and subsidiary and temporary protection, and leading also to the risk that these different schemes undermine the uniform application of the common provisions on entry to the territory of the Member States of third-country nationals as laid down in the Regulations (EC) No 810/2009(2) and (EU) 2016/399(3) of the European Parliament and of the Council,

–   the high costs, in human but also in social, economic and budgetary terms, associated with the status quo for the third-country nationals concerned (smuggler fees, risk of trafficking and exploitation, risk of persecution, risk of death and ill treatment, etc.) and for Member States and the Union (elevated budget for search and rescue, including for private shipping, border protection, cooperation with third countries, asylum procedures and possibly return in case of rejected applications for international protection as well as the fight against organised crime, trafficking and smuggling etc.),

–   the added value of Union action, in terms of ensuring compliance with Union values, including fundamental rights, mutual trust between Member States and confidence in the system by asylum seekers, legal certainty, foreseeability, and the uniform application and implementation of the rules, the achievement of economies of scale, and the reduction of the above-cited costs of the status quo,

–   recall that Directive 2013/32/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council(4) and Regulation (EU) No 604/2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council(5) only apply on the territory of the Member States, while there are, at present, insufficient legal ways for asylum applicants to reach that territory,

–  recall that, after the submission of an asylum application in a Member State, the provisions of the Union’s Common European Asylum System apply,

–  stresses that a refusal of an application for a European humanitarian visa does not affect in any way the right to apply for asylum within the Union nor does it prevent the applicant to enter other available protection schemes,

4.  GENERAL PROVISIONS

–   have as an objective to lay down provisions on the procedures and conditions under which a Member State may issue a European humanitarian visa to persons seeking international protection, to allow those persons to enter the territory of the Member State issuing the visa for the sole purpose of making an application for international protection in that Member State,

–   cover in its scope third-country nationals who must be in possession of a visa when crossing the external borders of the Member States, pursuant to Council Regulation (EC) No 539/2001(6), and where the claims of exposure to or risk of persecution as defined in Directive 2011/95/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council(7) are manifestly well founded, but who are not already in the resettlement process as defined in national resettlement schemes or in [the new Regulation establishing a Union Resettlement Framework or] Council Directive 2001/55/EC(8),

–   exclude from its scope family members who would otherwise have a right to join their family in a Member State in a timely manner in accordance with other legal acts of the Union or national law,

5.  PROCEDURES FOR ISSUING HUMANITARIAN VISAS

–   provide for such visa applications to be lodged directly, by electronic means or in writing, at any consulate or embassy of the Member States,

–   provide for practical modalities for such visa applications, including the filling out of an application form, the provision of information on the applicant’s identity, including biometric identifiers, and the provision of reasons, as far as possible documented, of the fear of persecution or serious harm,

–   provide that the applicant for such a visa be invited to an interview (with the assistance of an interpreter if necessary), which may also be conducted by remote means of audio and video communication, which ensure an appropriate level of safety, security and confidentiality,

–   provide that the documents submitted be assessed, including as regards their authenticity, by a competent, independent, and impartial authority, with adequate knowledge and expertise in matters of international protection,

–   provide that applications for such a visa be assessed on the basis of the applicant’s declaration and interview and, where available, supporting documentation, without conducting a full status determination process,

–   provide that, before the issuing of such a visa, each applicant be subject to a security screening, through the relevant national and Union databases in full respect of applicable data protection provisions, in order to ensure that he or she does not pose a security risk,

–   provide that such visa applications be decided on within 15 calendar days of the date of lodging the application,

–   provide that the decision on the application be communicated to the applicant and that it be individualised, written and motivated,

–   provide that a third-country national refused such a visa has the possibility for an appeal as is currently foreseen in the case of a refusal of a short-stay visa or a refusal of entry at the border,

6.  ISSUING A HUMANITARIAN VISA

–   provide for such visas to be issued by means of a common sticker and inserted into the Visa Information System,

–   provide that once a humanitarian visa is issued it allows its holder to enter the territory of the Member State issuing the visa for the sole purpose of making an application for international protection in that Member State,

7.  ADMINISTRATIVE MANAGEMENT AND ORGANISATION

–   provide that applications for such a visa be assessed by properly trained staff,

–   provide that such staff may either be posted in embassies or consulates or in Member States, in case of which applications are electronically transmitted and interviews conducted remotely,

–   provide that certain aspects of the process, which do not entail any pre-selection of cases, assessment or decision making of any kind, may be managed by external service providers, including the provision of information, the management of appointments for interviews, and the collection of biometric identifiers,

–   provide that appropriate measures be put in place to ensure data protection, data security and confidentiality of communications,

–   provide that Member States cooperate with each other, Union’s agencies, international organisations, governmental and non-governmental organisations and other relevant stakeholders to ensure its harmonised application,

–   provide that information on the procedures and conditions of such a visa as well as about the conditions and procedures to obtain international protection in the territory of the Member States be made widely available, including on the websites of the Member States’ embassies and consulates and via the European External Action Service,

8.  FINAL PROVISIONS

–  provide for significant financial support from the Integrated Border Management Fund to be made available to Member States for its implementation,

–   foresee that a Member State that issues such a humanitarian visa has access to the same compensation from the Asylum and Migration Fund as when a Member State receives a refugee through the European Resettlement Framework,

9.  AMENDMENT OF OTHER LEGAL ACTS

–   provide for amendments to:

–  Regulation (EC) No 810/2009 to clarify that for persons seeking international protection the provisions of the Regulation establishing a European Humanitarian Visa apply,

–  Regulation (EC) No 767/2008 of the European Parliament and of the Council(9) to provide for applications for a humanitarian visa to be entered into that system,

–  Regulation (EU) 2016/399 to adjust the entry conditions for persons who have obtained a European Humanitarian Visa,

–  the Integrated Border Management Fund to provide funding for Member States for the implementation of the Regulation establishing a European Humanitarian Visa,

–  Article 26 of the Convention implementing the Schengen Agreement of 14 June 1985 between the Governments of the States of the Benelux Economic Union, the Federal Republic of Germany and the French Republic on the gradual abolition of checks at their common borders(10) and to Council Directive 2001/51/EC(11) in order to exempt carriers transporting third-country nationals from liability, obligations and penalties where the third-country nationals involved declare their intention to apply for international or humanitarian protection in the territory of the Member States.

(1)

HEIN / DONATO (CIR) 2012: exploring avenues for protected entry in Europe, p. 17

(2)

Regulation (EC) No 810/2009 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 13 July 2009 establishing a Community Code on Visas (Visa Code) (OJ L 243, 15.9.2009, p. 1).

(3)

  Regulation (EU) 2016/399 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 9 March 2016 on a Union Code on the rules governing the movement of persons across borders (Schengen Borders Code) (OJ L 77, 23.3.2016, p. 1).

(4)

  Directive 2013/32/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 26 June 2013 on common procedures for granting and withdrawing international protection (OJ L 180, 29.6.2013, p. 60).

(5)

  Regulation (EU) No 604/2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 26 June 2013 establishing the criteria and mechanisms for determining the Member State responsible for examining an application for international protection lodged in one of the Member States by a third-country national or a stateless person (OJ L 180, 29.6.2013, p. 31).

(6)

  Council Regulation (EC) No 539/2001 of 15 March 2001 listing the third countries whose nationals must be in possession of visas when crossing the external borders and those whose nationals are exempt from that requirement (OJ L 81, 21.3.2001, p. 1).

(7)

  Directive 2011/95/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 13 December 2011 on standards for the qualification of third-country nationals or stateless persons as beneficiaries of international protection, for a uniform status for refugees or for persons eligible for subsidiary protection, and for the content of the protection granted (OJ L 337, 20.12.2011, p. 9).

(8)

  Council Directive 2001/55/EC of 20 July 2001 on minimum standards for giving temporary protection in the event of a mass influx of displaced persons and on measures promoting a balance of efforts between Member States in receiving such persons and bearing the consequences thereof (OJ L 212, 7.8.2001, p. 12).

(9)

  Regulation (EC) No 767/2008 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 9 July 2008 concerning the Visa Information System (VIS) and the exchange of data between Member States on short-stay visas (VIS Regulation) (OJ L 218, 13.8.2008, p. 60).

(10)

  OJ L 239, 22.9.2000, p. 19.

(11)

  Council Directive 2001/51/EC of 28 June 2001 supplementing the provisions of Article 26 of the Convention implementing the Schengen Agreement of 14 June 1985 (OJ L 187, 10.7.2001, p. 45).


EXPLANATORY STATEMENT

Background(1)

Parliament started to call for humanitarian visas against the background of the migration crisis and the unacceptable death toll in the Mediterranean. It has expressed its views, among others, in the resolution of 12.4.2016 on the situation in the Mediterranean and the need for a holistic EU approach to migration.

Humanitarian visas were already discussed in the EU context but without any concrete result. Currently, there are a number of targeted national programmes but no legal framework in EU law.

The LIBE Committee has tried to address this legal gap as part of the review of the Visa Code (2014/0094(COD)) but both Council and Commission have opposed the amendments included in this regard in the trilogue negotiations which started in May 2016. In September 2017, after months of deadlock with the Council refusing to continue negotiations if these amendments were not withdrawn, Parliament’s negotiating team withdrew them. Instead the LIBE Committee decided to draw up this legislative own-initiative report.

Despite this step, Council and Commission discontinued the negotiations.

On 6.12.2017, LIBE Committee was authorised to draw up this legislative own-initiative report based on Art. 225 TFEU and Rule 46.

In preparation of this report, the rapporteur sought input from the shadow rapporteurs, but also from civil society and academia. Furthermore, its preparation was supported by a European Added Value Assessment prepared by the European Parliamentary Research Service. The rapporteur wishes to express his gratitude for the cooperation and the support provided.

Parliament’s requests to the Commission

A clear request for a legislative proposal establishing a European Humanitarian Visa should be made to the Commission which should present such a proposal by the end of March 2019. This period might appear short. It is, however, fully justified given the urgency of the matter, the extended debates which have taken place, the studies undertaken and the detailed recommendations made in this report.

Detailed explanation of the recommendations

The order of the recommendations, annexed but forming part of the motion for resolution, is based on the structure of a legislative instrument. The recommendations cover the core elements such a legislative instrument should contain.

This legislative instrument should be a new, separate legal act. The discussions on the Visa Code have shown that such a separate act is necessary. The rapporteur considers that the appropriate choice of instrument would be a Regulation as the other instruments of the visa acquis.

Legal base

The rapporteur considers that a combination of Articles 77(2)(b) and 78(2)(g) TFEU, looking at border checks and the managing of inflows of people applying for asylum, would constitute an appropriate legal basis.

Justification for the proposal

The recitals of the new legislative instrument should start by explaining the main rationale for the instrument. 

This should be, firstly, the current paradoxical situation that there is in EU law no provision as to how a refugee should actually arrive leading to a situation that almost all arrivals take place in an irregular manner. This situation has serious consequences for the individual but also for Member States. The persons fleeing need to engage in life-threatening trips with the help of smugglers for which they need to pay enormous fees and where they are exposed to exploitation, ill treatment and abuse. On the negative side for Member States are the effects of uncontrolled arrivals (with unknown numbers and no information on who is arriving) and the increased efforts necessary to manage such arrivals in terms of enhanced border control and surveillance, search and rescue activities, cooperation with third countries etc. At the same time, Member States are confronted with ever-stronger organised crime which benefits from financial gain made by human smuggling. 

A further argument for such a new legislative instrument is the risk of fragmentation. It can be observed that Member States do set up national schemes but they are all different. The rapporteur welcomes all initiatives which do provide for a safe passage. At the same time, given that the EU constitutes an area of freedom, security and justice without internal frontiers (Art. 3(2) TEU) more emphasis should be put on common policies. 

As the EU is founded on the values of respect of human dignity and the respect for human rights (Art. 2 TEU) such an instrument is, finally, also necessary for the EU to be in line with its own Treaty requirements.

General provisions

The objective of the new instrument should be limited to provisions on the procedures and conditions for issuing a humanitarian visa. In its nature it should be a visa with limited territorial validity to allow its holder to reach this territory to lodge there an application for international protection. The Member State issuing the visa would therefore become responsible for the asylum procedures.

Discussions have taken place whether there should be a kind of relocation mechanism. After careful reflection the rapporteur does not propose such a mechanism to avoid that the system becomes overly complicated. 

The new instrument should cover third-country nationals who are subject to the visa requirement who are in need of protection against a real risk of being exposed to persecution or serious harm and who are not covered by any other instrument such as resettlement. Resettlement is highly supported by the rapporteur but cannot be the only legal, safe pathway as it addresses only a limited group of already recognised refugees.

Procedures and conditions for issuing humanitarian visas 

The procedures for such visas should be similar to short-stay visas wherever their nature allows for it. This would, for example, concern the procedural steps, processing deadlines, the need for an application form and biometric data, the involvement of external service providers, security checks and the right to appeal. The procedures should, however, be different where the specific situation of the persons so require. There should, for example, always be an interview (also to address the risk of trafficking) and it should be possible to apply by electronic means. In addition, to save costs and to take account of the situation of the person more use of modern communication tools should be made than is currently the case for visa applications. It should, for example, be possible to conduct interviews remotely allowing Member States to work with asylum experts not necessarily based in third countries.

The visa application should be assessed on a prima facie basis to consider whether applicants have an arguable claim of exposure to a real risk of persecution or serious harm. The rapporteur considers that such an assessment is necessary for the procedure to be credible. He stresses that the assessment is an assessment of the visa application and not an external processing of an asylum application. The latter would pose too many legal and practical questions. 

Administrative management and organisation 

The instrument will require administrative efforts for which Member States should be able to receive support, also financially. Amendments to this end could be made to the financial programmes of the new MFF, and in particular the Integrated Border Management Fund. In addition, it is expected that savings in other areas can be made as arrivals will be more orderly with less persons clearly not in need of international protection. The use of modern communication technology should allow for further savings.

Final provisions

The rapporteur fully acknowledges that an important number of practical preparations have to be made before the new instrument as conceived here can be implemented. It will be necessary to think the interconnection between visa and asylum procedures in a new way and organise the administrative workflow accordingly. For this reason the rapporteur proposes a two year transition period before the new rules would become applicable. Subsequently the rules should be tested in the controlled environment of some selected third countries as pilot regions. This should allow for experiences to be made and analysed before a further roll-out.

Specific support structures for Member States in the pilot regions should be provided. They should be able to receive significant EU funding (for example from the Integrated Border Management Fund) for the further adjustment of their premises, staff training and the reorganisation of workflows and IT infrastructure. Expert advice should be provided by agencies, including EASO, Frontex, Europol and FRA. The implementation in the pilot regions should be closely monitored to allow for conclusions to be drawn. The results of the monitoring should feed into the evaluation after two years. These results should be carefully assessed and where necessary the new instrument may be amended. Subsequent to any necessary adjustments, the new instrument should be further rolled-out.

Amendment of other legal acts

It would be necessary to amend a series of acts of the visa acquis, in particular the Visa Code and the VIS, to adapt them to the existence of this completely new instrument. The same is necessary for the legislative instruments the holder of such a visa will then be subject when travelling to the EU. For instance, when arriving with such a visa at the external border the Schengen Borders Code will have to be amended to recognise it. Finally, some adjustments are also needed in the asylum acquis. While obviously the asylum procedure would fully take place in the territory of the EU the fact that an applicant was holder of a humanitarian visa should be integrated. For example, any assessment which has already taken place as part of the visa application should also be taken into account in the asylum procedure to avoid any unnecessary duplication of efforts.

Conclusion

The rapporteur considers that it is high time to find innovative solutions addressing both the needs of persons seeking protection and Member States. The current thinking in silos as regard the visa acquis on the one side and the asylum acquis on the other is artificial and not adapted to today‘s realities. A courageous step is necessary for the EU to life up to its values.

(1)

For more details see the working document on humanitarian visas of the rapporteur of 5.4.2018


OPINION of the Committee on Women's Rights and Gender Equality (10.9.2018)

for the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs

with recommendations to the Commission on Humanitarian Visas

(2017/2270(INL))

Rapporteur for opinion: Malin Björk

(Initiative – Rule 46 of the Rules of Procedure)

SUGGESTIONS

The Committee on Women's Rights and Gender Equality calls on the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs, as the committee responsible, to incorporate the following suggestions into its motion for a resolution:

A.  whereas it is widely accepted that gender falls under membership to a particular social group which is one of the grounds of protection under the 1951 UN Convention relating to the status of Refugees and its 1967 Protocol (the Refugee Convention) and whereas persecution on the basis of gender constitutes a ground for seeking and being granted protection under the international and EU legal frameworks, including the Istanbul Convention, and whereas women worldwide are affected disproportionately by sexual and other forms of gender-based violence and in specific ways during the times of armed conflict and war;

B.  whereas in current refugee crisis, single women travelling alone or with children, women heads of household, pregnant and lactating women, people with disabilities, adolescent girls and elderly women are among those who are particularly vulnerable along migration routes to Europe and are facing particular greater risks of gender-based violence;

C.  whereas the UNHCR Guidelines on Gender-Related Persecution (2002) consider that the refugee definition should cover gender-related claims and urges asylum-grantors to adopt a “gender-sensitive interpretation” of the grounds of protection and ensure a non-discriminatory process;

D.  whereas according to the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) statistics, since 2014 more than 15 thousand migrants have lost their lives or gone missing on the way to Europe in the Mediterranean; and whereas the Central Mediterranean remained the most deadly route with nearly two deaths for every 100 travellers in 2015, which is unacceptable;

E.  whereas the Istanbul Convention, in particular its Article 60, requires the parties to take necessary legislative or other measures to ensure that gender-based violence against women may be recognized as a form of persecution and to ensure that the grounds for asylum listed in the 1951 Refugee Convention are interpreted in a gender-sensitive manner;

F.  whereas the need for safe and legal pathways to the Union are pressing, also from a gender perspective, and whereas humanitarian visas can be complementary, although not replacing, other safe pathways such as resettlement and humanitarian admission; 

G.  whereas the current lack of a possibility to request protection on humanitarian grounds outside of the Union means that persons seeking asylum are forced to enter Europe in an irregular manner thereby risking their lives and health, with particular and gendered consequences for women, girls and LGBTI persons, such as rape, violence and being targets of smugglers and traffickers to be sexually and economically exploited;

H.  whereas the creation of humanitarian visa will grant vulnerable people and those individuals that face specific challenges such as ill people, people with disabilities, families, women, pregnant women, children, elderly and LGTBI access to asylum procedures and humanitarian protection, travelling in a safe way to Europe where their asylum or humanitarian claim would be processed;

I.  whereas women and girls can be subject to specific forms of gender-related persecution and discrimination in the countries of origin, including but not limited to female genital mutilation, forced marriage, domestic violence, rape, sexual violence, and ‘honour crimes’;

J.  whereas according to the UNHCR in 2017, women comprised from 9 - 22 % of the sea arrivals to Italy, Greece and Spain (1), the large gender discrepancy being related to women’s specific vulnerability including economic and other dependencies;

K.   Whereas women and girls face high risks from sexual and physical abuse and violence including rape and tend to be more vulnerable to all forms of exploitation including labour exploitation and sexual exploitation along the migration routes to the EU; and are often being forced to survival sex in exchange for continuing their journey; whereas criminal groups, some smugglers and traffickers take advantage of the lack of safe passage into European Union;

L.  whereas girls and women victims of gender-based violence who are in need of international protection may be reluctant to identify the true extent of the persecution suffered or feared and therefore, they require a supportive environment where they can be reassured of the confidentiality;

1.  Emphasises the pressing need of safe and legal pathways to the European Union, of which humanitarian visas should be one; this is important from a gender perspective since women and LGBTI persons are particularly vulnerable and therefore more exposed to sexual and gender-based violence along routes and in reception centres.

2.  Regrets that there is a great degree of inequality between women and men who are forced to leave their countries of origin for international protection; emphasizes that oftentimes vulnerable economic and other type of dependencies put women and girls in third countries in a situation where it is even more difficult for them than for men to safely seek asylum;

3.  Condemns the ongoing situation where in order to seek asylum in the EU, women and girls, as well as LGBTI persons put themselves under the serious risk of sexual and gender-based violence along routes and in reception centers;

4.  Stresses that gender-based violence, including sexual violence, has serious consequences on women and girls’ life and health, which could affect the mental health of women and lead to post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety and depression;

5.  Underlines that women, girls, and LGBTI persons who claim a well-founded fear of gender-based persecution need to be able to safely request visas on humanitarian grounds;

6.  Calls for a separate instrument on humanitarian visas, in addition and complementary to a Union programme on resettlement and humanitarian admission, in order to provide a safe and legal access to the EU territory for persons in need of international protection while ensuring its gender-sensitive approach and effective protection of persons suffering gender-based persecution in which it is of outmost importance that the process is handled in a sensitive and respectful way, with full understanding regarding the complexity and the vulnerabilities of all applicants, especially women, children and LGBTI persons;

7.  Points out that the instrument of humanitarian visa should also include humanitarian protection claims based on health conditions, compelling family grounds when these do not amount to grounds for family reunification, climate displacement reasons and other compelling cases of humanitarian protection needs;

8.  Highlights that gendered forms of violence and discrimination, including but not limited to rape and sexual violence, FGM, forced marriage, domestic violence, so-called honour crimes and gender discrimination condoned by the state, constitute persecution and should be valid reasons for seeking asylum or humanitarian protection and therefore be reflected in the new instrument; calls on the Commission therefore to recognize gender-based persecution as a valid ground for seeking international protection as well as to ensure the inclusion of the gender perspective in all phases of the asylum procedure by complying with the 2002 UNHCR Guidelines on international protection: gender-related persecution;

9.  Alerts that the new instrument of humanitarian visa cannot serve as a way to shift the responsibility to assess refugees’ claims to countries outside Europe but as a way to ensure asylum seekers and person in need of humanitarian protection travel safe to Europe where their claim then would be processed; whereas proposals such as the disembarkation platforms fundamentally undermine the core principles of international and European refugee protection;

10.  Calls on the Commission and the Member States to improve the collection of sex-disaggregated data in current refugee crisis and to ensure that a gender equality perspective is incorporated into relevant asylum policies;

11.  Reminds that legislation and policies to combat human smuggling should never prevent access to EU asylum procedures and should seek to help migrant and refugees avoid exploitative harmful situations;

12.  Criticises the designation of third countries as safe countries of origin, safe third countries and first countries of asylum and underlines that even in countries deemed safe, women may suffer gender-based persecution, while LGBTI persons may also suffer abuse, thus having a legitimate request for protection;

13.  Calls for an immediate end to the detention of children, pregnant and nursing women and survivors of rape, sexual violence and trafficking, and for appropriate psychological support to be made available;

14.  Stresses the need for funding to support, specifically, the more vulnerable women and girls in our society, particularly women with disabilities, women refugees and those who are victims of trafficking and abuse;

15.  Calls on the Member States to provide necessary and sufficient trainings to staffs and health professionals involved in dealing with children, girls and women victims of gender-based violence when they arrive in the EU, in order to provide specialised assistance and care services, including sexual and reproductive healthcare and psychological support;

16.  Regrets that some Member States have not ratified the Istanbul Convention and reiterates its call for all Member States to ratify the Istanbul Convention and to fully implement it without any delay;

17.  Calls for shared responsibility and close cooperation among the European countries, international organizations, relevant stakeholders and sectors at different levels; reminds the Commission and the Member States that the protection of persons in need of international protection is an issue which concerns all and a common response based on the principle of solidarity shall be given;

INFORMATION ON ADOPTION IN COMMITTEE ASKED FOR OPINION

Date adopted

3.9.2018

 

 

 

Result of final vote

+:

–:

0:

15

8

0

Members present for the final vote

Maria Arena, Beatriz Becerra Basterrechea, Malin Björk, Vilija Blinkevičiūtė, Anna Hedh, Mary Honeyball, Agnieszka Kozłowska-Rajewicz, Florent Marcellesi, Krisztina Morvai, Maria Noichl, João Pimenta Lopes, Michaela Šojdrová, Anna Záborská, Maria Gabriela Zoană

Substitutes present for the final vote

José Inácio Faria, Eleonora Forenza, Jérôme Lavrilleux, Mylène Troszczynski, Monika Vana, Julie Ward

Substitutes under Rule 200(2) present for the final vote

Cécile Kashetu Kyenge, Patrick O’Flynn, Patrizia Toia

FINAL VOTE BY ROLL CALL IN COMMITTEE ASKED FOR OPINION

15

+

ALDE

Beatriz Becerra Basterrechea

GUE/NGL

Malin Björk, Eleonora Forenza, João Pimenta Lopes

S&D

Maria Arena, Vilija Blinkevičiūtė, Anna Hedh, Mary Honeyball, Cécile Kashetu Kyenge, Maria Noichl, Patrizia Toia, Julie Ward, Maria Gabriela Zoană

VERTS/ALE

Florent Marcellesi, Monika Vana

8

-

EFDD

Patrick O'Flynn

ENF

Mylène Troszczynski

NI

Krisztina Morvai

PPE

José Inácio Faria, Agnieszka Kozłowska-Rajewicz, Jérôme Lavrilleux, Michaela Šojdrová, Anna Záborská

0

0

 

 

Key to symbols:

+  :  in favour

-  :  against

0  :  abstention

(1)

https://data2.unhcr.org/en/documents/download/63039


INFORMATION ON ADOPTION IN COMMITTEE RESPONSIBLE

Date adopted

10.10.2018

 

 

 

Result of final vote

+:

–:

0:

39

10

0

Members present for the final vote

Asim Ademov, Martina Anderson, Heinz K. Becker, Monika Beňová, Malin Björk, Michał Boni, Caterina Chinnici, Frank Engel, Laura Ferrara, Romeo Franz, Kinga Gál, Nathalie Griesbeck, Sylvie Guillaume, Brice Hortefeux, Filiz Hyusmenova, Sophia in ‘t Veld, Eva Joly, Marek Jurek, Dietmar Köster, Barbara Kudrycka, Cécile Kashetu Kyenge, Juan Fernando López Aguilar, Monica Macovei, Claude Moraes, József Nagy, Péter Niedermüller, Ivari Padar, Birgit Sippel, Branislav Škripek, Csaba Sógor, Sergei Stanishev, Traian Ungureanu, Bodil Valero, Josef Weidenholzer, Kristina Winberg, Tomáš Zdechovský, Auke Zijlstra

Substitutes present for the final vote

Kostas Chrysogonos, Carlos Coelho, Gérard Deprez, Teresa Jiménez-Becerril Barrio, Jean Lambert, Jeroen Lenaers, Innocenzo Leontini, Angelika Mlinar, Barbara Spinelli, Daniele Viotti

Substitutes under Rule 200(2) present for the final vote

John Stuart Agnew, Jude Kirton-Darling

FINAL VOTE BY ROLL CALL IN COMMITTEE RESPONSIBLE

39

+

ALDE

Gérard Deprez, Nathalie Griesbeck, Filiz Hyusmenova, Sophia in 't Veld, Angelika Mlinar

EFDD

Laura Ferrara

GUE/NGL

Martina Anderson, Malin Björk, Kostas Chrysogonos, Barbara Spinelli

PPE

Asim Ademov, Heinz K. Becker, Michał Boni, Carlos Coelho, Frank Engel, Teresa Jiménez-Becerril Barrio, Barbara Kudrycka, Jeroen Lenaers, Innocenzo Leontini, József Nagy, Csaba Sógor

S&D

Monika Beňová, Caterina Chinnici, Sylvie Guillaume, Jude Kirton-Darling, Dietmar Köster, Cécile Kashetu Kyenge, Juan Fernando López Aguilar, Claude Moraes, Péter Niedermüller, Ivari Padar, Birgit Sippel, Sergei Stanishev, Daniele Viotti, Josef Weidenholzer

VERTS/ALE

Romeo Franz, Eva Joly, Jean Lambert, Bodil Valero

10

-

ECR

Marek Jurek, Monica Macovei, Branislav Škripek, Kristina Winberg

EFDD

John Stuart Agnew

ENF

Auke Zijlstra

PPE

Kinga Gál, Brice Hortefeux, Traian Ungureanu, Tomáš Zdechovský

0

0

 

 

Key to symbols:

+  :  in favour

-  :  against

0  :  abstention

Last updated: 29 October 2018Legal notice