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CJEU rules that Member States are not obliged to grant refugees humanitarian visas

Judgment in Case C-638/16 PPU X and X v État beige

The Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) has ruled that refugees do not have to be granted humanitarian visas to the EU, even in circumstances where there is a risk of torture and inhuman or degrading treatment.

The case was brought by a couple and their three young children from Aleppo, Syria.  They had initially applied for a humanitarian visa to Belgium which had limited territorial validity.  They planned to travel to Belgium and apply for asylum.  The application was rejected and the Belgian Immigration Office alleged that the couple clearly intended to break the visa’s 90 day limit.

The family challenged the decision before the Council for asylum and immigration proceedings, Belgium on the basis that the European Charter and European Convention on Human Rights imposed an obligation on Member States to guarantee the right to asylum.  They also argued that granting asylum was the only way to ensure that the prohibition of torture and inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment would not be infringed.  The Council referred the matter to CJEU.

The Court held that the applications fell outside the scope of the Visa Code.  The Court also found that,

No measure has been adopted, to date, by the EU legislature with regard to the issuing by member states of long-term visas and residence permits to third-country nationals on humanitarian grounds.’  Therefore this matter falls within the scope of domestic law.

The Court also held that allowing third-country nationals to lodge applications for visas in order to obtain international protection in the Member State of their choice would undermine the general structure of the system established for determining which Member State is responsible for considering an application for international protection.

Read CJEU press release here.

Immigration & Asylum