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FORTRESS EUROPE: Euro judges OVERRULE legal advice to shut off visa route for refugees

FORTRESS Europe’s walls got a little bit higher today as euro judges handed down a shock judgement shutting off a key visa avenue for refugees stranded in the Middle East.

EU: Refugees are needed to ‘maintain level of welfare systems’

In a surprise ruling EU justices went against the legal advice of their own advocate general and said member states do not have to hand out permits to people at risk of torture or inhumane treatment.The case revolved around a Christian couple from Syria who argued that they should be granted a humanitarian permit by Belgium after turning up at the country’s embassy in Lebanon.

Refugees at a camp in the Middle EastGETTY   Euro judges have shut off the route for refugees to apply for visas from the Middle East


National authorities in Brussels had vigorously opposed the move, which would effectively allow people to apply for visas from anywhere in the world, saying it would spark a fresh influx of asylum seekers.The judgement will be seen as a litmus test for Europe’s attitudes towards mass migration, which has hardened significantly over the last year in the face of growing euroscepticism.

Pro-refugee demonstrators protested against border controls in Brussels yesterdayGETTY     Pro-refugee demonstrators protested against border controls in Brussels yesterday


The European Court of JusticeGETTY      The decision was handed down by the European Court of Justice


Member states and Brussels itself have scrambled to beef up border controls and speed up the return of rejected asylum seekers as they try to fight off resurgent populist leaders.The ruling today will come as a huge relief to eurocrats, who are attempting to demonstrate to voters that they have got the migration issue under control and can take effective action to protect the EU’s borders.But it is likely to alarm humanitarian groups, coming after Belgium’s national courts had ruled that member states should have to grant visas to those people at risk of serious harm.The Syrian couple, from the war-torn city of Aleppo, went to the Belgian embassy in Beirut last year and applied for a visa to stay with a family they did not know, but who had agreed to house them for 90 days.

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Minister is Brussels fought the plans through their national justice system before taking it to the Strasbourg court, arguing that there was no prospect of the pair returning home once their visa expired.Instead the couple and their two children were expected to use the opportunity to apply for permanent asylum in Europe, something which at the moment can only be done by people actually on EU territory.In its judgement the ECJ upheld that principle, effectively shutting off the opportunity for migrants and refugees to apply for asylum from overseas without making the dangerous journey across the Mediterranean.The judges said: “Member States are not required, under EU law, to grant a humanitarian visa to persons who wish to enter their territory with a view to applying for asylum, but they remain free to do so on the basis of their national law.”
Interior minister Theo Francine had warned that granting the request would “start an influx in front of our consulates in Beirut and Ankara” and would lead Belgium to “lose control” of its borders.But after the ruling Wenzel Michalski‏ from Human Rights Watch tweeted: “European Court of Justice ruling against humanitarian visas for refugees is a huge missed opportunity.”Home Office officials had previously confirmed to Express.co.uk that the ruling would not affect Britain, but it will come as a huge relief to Angela Merkel ahead of her reelection bid.
http://www.express.co.uk/news/politics/776002/Migrant-crisis-EU-judges-rule-against-humanitarian-visas-refugees-Middle-East

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