MEPs back humanitarian visas to allow for safe and legal pathway

The European Parliament has overwhelmingly called for the establishment of humanitarian visas to allow for safe and legal pathways to the EU for asylum-seekers.

The vote, after the original ballot in November was voided - tasked the Commission with presenting a concrete proposal for a new EU humanitarian visa system, which would allow people in need of international protection to reach Europe without putting their lives at risk.

This includes allowing people to request visa at EU embassies or consulates abroad, giving them access to European territory for the sole purpose of submitting an asylum application.

Marie Christine Vergiat


However, the approved text is limited to a voluntary scheme rather than being legally binding. That said, MEP Marie-Christine Vergiat (pictured left) is pleased with the outcome.

She said, “Despite right-wing attempts to water down the text, I am delighted that the vote has been overwhelmingly adopted in plenary today. An absolute majority of MEPs clearly believe in humanitarian visas which we hope will end the deaths in the Mediterranean.”

Meanwhile, moves to close a loophole which is hampering the fight against cross border crime and terrorism have cleared an important hurdle.

Proposals by Conservative Home Affairs Spokesman Daniel Dalton will enable national authorities to establish quickly whether any EU member state holds criminal records on a non-EU citizen. They have been backed in talks between European Parliament and Council negotiators today and are now expected to be voted on by Parliament in the New Year. 

Under the arrangements, a new European Criminal Records Information System Third Country National (ECRIS-TCN) system will contain data such as names, addresses, fingerprints and facial images.

In addition to judges and prosecutors in EU countries, Europol, Eurojust and the future European Public Prosecutor's Office will also have access to the system.

Dalton

Dalton said: "The fast, reliable exchange of information is key in the fight against crime at all levels. This measure aims to make it harder for criminals to slip through the net. 

"Our citizens will be less safe if we leave this gaping legal loophole wide open any longer. With time ticking on this matter, we need to move forward as quickly as possible."

He added: "The inclusion of facial images on the database will improve the accuracy of searches and help prevent cases of mistaken identity.

"However, strong safeguards must be built in whenever personal information is held centrally. Therefore the report includes guarantees that requests for correction and deletion are dealt with swiftly."

At present, if a non-EU national is arrested and prosecuted in the UK, legal authorities have no way of knowing if that person has a criminal record elsewhere in the bloc. The new searchable database will close that loophole by providing details of where such information is held. 

image: Red Cross EU

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Martin Banks

Martin Banks

Martin Banks is a highly qualified journalist with many years experience of working within the EU institutions. He is an occasional, and highly valued, contributor to EU today, writing on a wide variety of issues.

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