16 Mar 2017

The European Court of Justice on Humanitarian Visas: Legal integrity vs. political opportunism?

Evelien Brouwer

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Even before the outcome of the case between Syrian asylum-seekers vs. the Belgian state (X and X vs. Belgium) was known, a Dutch newspaper printed the headline: “Decision of the European Court today could lay a bomb under the European asylum system”. Well, it did not. In X and X vs. Belgium, the Court of Justice of the European Union decided to take a rather formal, possibly even politically motivated approach, concluding that member states have no positive obligation to issue humanitarian visa to Syrian families, even if they are at risk of ill treatment, in violation of Article 4 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights.

The author of this CEPS commentary explains why this judgment is disappointing. In opting for political inertia the Court of Justice is doing nothing to address the shared and individual responsibilities of EU member states towards asylum-seekers and refugees, who continue to risk their lives to reach Europe.

Evelien Brouwer is Senior Researcher and Lecturer in Migration Law at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam.

CEPS Commentaries offer concise, policy-oriented insights into topical issues in European affairs. As an institution, CEPS takes no official position on questions of EU policy. The views expressed are attributable only to the authors in a personal capacity and not to any institution with which they are associated.

Available for free downloading from CEPS website © CEPS 2017