Humanitarian Visas: Option or Obligation?

05-09-2014

Upon request by the LIBE committee, this study analyses existing EU legislation and practice on the issuing of humanitarian visas. Since third-country nationals seeking protection currently have no EU-wide legal channels for entering EU territory and triggering protection mechanisms under the Common European Asylum System, many embark on hazardous journeys, with concomitant risks and loss of human life. The absence of ‘protection-sensitive’ mechanisms for accessing EU territory, against a background of EU extraterritorial border/migration management and control, undermines Member States' refugee and human rights obligations. Humanitarian visas may offer a remedy by enabling third-country nationals to apply in situ for entry to EU territory on humanitarian grounds and thereby ensuring that Member States meet their international obligations. This study asks whether the existing Visa Code actually obliges Member States to issue humanitarian visas. It also examines past implementation of humanitarian visa schemes by Member States and considers whether more could be done to encourage increased use of existing provisions in EU law. Finally, with a Commission proposal for Visa Code reform on the table, it asks whether there is now an opportunity to lay down clear rules for humanitarian visa schemes.

Upon request by the LIBE committee, this study analyses existing EU legislation and practice on the issuing of humanitarian visas. Since third-country nationals seeking protection currently have no EU-wide legal channels for entering EU territory and triggering protection mechanisms under the Common European Asylum System, many embark on hazardous journeys, with concomitant risks and loss of human life. The absence of ‘protection-sensitive’ mechanisms for accessing EU territory, against a background of EU extraterritorial border/migration management and control, undermines Member States' refugee and human rights obligations. Humanitarian visas may offer a remedy by enabling third-country nationals to apply in situ for entry to EU territory on humanitarian grounds and thereby ensuring that Member States meet their international obligations. This study asks whether the existing Visa Code actually obliges Member States to issue humanitarian visas. It also examines past implementation of humanitarian visa schemes by Member States and considers whether more could be done to encourage increased use of existing provisions in EU law. Finally, with a Commission proposal for Visa Code reform on the table, it asks whether there is now an opportunity to lay down clear rules for humanitarian visa schemes.