Landmark ruling on visas for refugees

European Union states are not bound to provide an entry visa to refugees facing serious danger the European Court of Justice (ECJ) has ruled. The court sides with Belgian asylum secretary Theo Francken in his dispute with a Syrian family.

The case under scrutiny of the European court closely resembles the case of the Syrian family from Aleppo who applied for a visa at the Belgian embassy in Lebanon. The asylum secretary's refusal to grant a visa sparked a tremendous row in Belgium.

The secretary of state believes that he cannot be obliged to issue entry visas for humanitarian reasons to refugees applying at Belgian embassies abroad. He considers the issue of such a visa to be a favour not a right. European judges have now ruled that issuing a short stay visa on humanitarian grounds cannot be secured through court action.

It was Belgium's immigration disputes court where the Syrian family had appealed against Mr Francken's decision that took the matter to the ECJ. This court ruled that issuing visas to refugees from warzones does not fall under the responsibility of the European visa code and that member states must take decisions about humanitarian visas on the basis of their national law.