A top official of the European Union’s (EU) highest court says Member States must grant visas to persons who are at risk of degrading treatment.
Advocate General Paolo Mengozzi said on Tuesday that EU member states must issue visas on humanitarian grounds where there’s reason to believe that a refusal would “expose persons seeking international protection to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment.”
“The presence or absence of ties between the person concerned and the requested Member State is irrelevant.” he added.
The Advocate General’s comments follow a complaint against Belgium by a Syrian family who applied to the Belgian Embassy in Beirut, Lebanon, for visas in October last year.
Maintaining that the security situation in Syria was deteriorating, the family applied for visas with limited territorial validity which would enable them to travel to Belgium and seek asylum.
The application was refused by Belgium’s Aliens’ Office, which took the view that EU member states are under no obligation to allow all persons who find themselves in danger into their territory, and argued that the Syrian family’s links to the country are too tenuous.
The Belgian Asylum and Immigration Board referred the case to the EU Court of Justice, contending that the government’s decision breached Article 4 of the union’s Charter of Fundamental Rights.
Mengozzi said countries in the EU are required to issue visas on humanitarian grounds if there is a serious risk of breach of Article 4 of the Charter, which states: “No one shall be subjected to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”
Asserting that there is no doubt that the applicants were at risk of inhuman treatment in Syria, the Advocate General said Belgium was not entitled to believe it could be exempted from its “positive obligation under Article 4 of the Charter”, New Europe reports.
Drafted by the European Commission and solemnly proclaimed by European Parliament in 2000, the EU’s Charter of Fundamental Rights enshrines into the bloc’s law certain rights for EU citizens, and non-EU citizens who are resident in Europe.