The European Parliament in Strasbourg has approved a proposal to introduce European humanitarian visas with the objective of reducing the death toll and improving the management of refugee flows. The legislative initiative was approved by 429 MEPs against 194 and 41 abstentions (absolute majority). A similar proposal had failed in November to reach the absolute majority due to a technical error during the voting process.
A legislative proposal by March 2019
In particular, the European Parliament asked the European Commission to present, by March 31, 2019, a legislative proposal establishing a European Humanitarian Visa, giving access to European territory - specifically to the member state issuing the visa - for the sole purpose of submitting an application for international protection.
MEPs stressed that, despite numerous announcements and requests for safe and legal pathways for asylum-seekers into Europe, the EU lacks a coherent framework of protected entry procedures. Moreover, due to insufficient legal options, an estimated 90 percent of those granted international protection reached the European Union through irregular means.
Humanitarian visas to cut the death toll
MEPs said that humanitarian visas would help to address the intolerable death toll in the Mediterranean and on the migration routes to the EU (at least 30,000 people have died at EU borders since 2000). They would also help combat human smuggling and manage arrivals, reception and processing of asylum claims better.
Such a tool should also help optimize member states' and the EU's budget for asylum, law enforcement procedures, border control, surveillance and search and rescue activities, MEPs said. They stressed that member States would have sole responsibility of issuing European humanitarian visas.