Humanitarian visas: "A right to be heard without risking your life" 

Juan Fernando López Aguilar  

To allow asylum seekers to reach Europe without putting their lives at risk, Parliament is currently considering a proposal for a new EU humanitarian visa system.

The proposal, approved by MEPs on 11 December 2018; calls on the European Commission to table legislation allowing those seeking international protection to apply for a visa at an EU embassy or consulate.

Learn more about the legislative initiative in our interview with report author Juan Fernando López Aguilar, a Spanish member of the S&D group.

Can you outline your proposals on establishing a European humanitarian visa?

More than 90% of those who claim asylum in Europe have arrived via irregular means and we have to wonder why. Because they were not given any legal pathway to make it to the EU. Our proposals mean you would have a right to be heard, without risking your life and exposing yourself and your loved ones to the illicit trafficking of human beings.

You would be given a territorially limited permit to enter a certain EU member state to ask for asylum. You could do it in a European consulate or embassy, or at an EU delegation abroad. This would be a solution for those who currently have no other choice than to expose themselves to illicit trafficking. Remember at least 30,000 people have lost their lives in the Mediterranean in the last few years.

Who would be granted these visas?

There are a whole array of cases, for example a family belonging to a religious community subject to persecution or systemic violence. That is the case for Christians in Syria and Iraq, or non-Muslims in Afghanistan, also LGBT people in most Muslim countries, or ethnic communities whose safety is at stake.

If approved by Parliament, what is the next step?

As it is an own-initiative report, we are not talking about a binding law in one single shot. It is a call for the Commission to submit legislation to deal with this matter.

Recent surveys show immigration remains a concern for Europeans. What other proposals does Parliament have on the table?

The first thing is to separate facts from perceptions. There is a widely held perception that migration is out of control, an aggressive invasion of the EU, a Trojan horse. There is no empirical evidence to support this view; it is a fact that the number of arrivals has been declining dramatically.

We have a mandate to act in solidarity and share responsibility by means of a common European asylum system. Yet the Council is the missing link in the EU decision-making process.

This Parliament has done its best to deliver legislation including the review of the so-called Dublin regulation, which results in an extremely unfair allocation of responsibilities.

We need a common European system to handle asylum claims and not to overburden those countries facing the Mediterranean.