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Victims of torture must receive EU visas, court adviser says

The European Court of Justice's top adviser said that EU states have to grant entry visas to people at risk of torture or inhuman treatment. Opponents fear this could open up a new route for refugees to get into Europe.

Advocate General Paolo Mengozzi said that any EU member state had to provide a visa on humanitarian grounds if new arrivals were judged to be at risk. The announcement came after Belgian authorities refused to grant humanitarian visas to a family from the besieged city of Aleppo, arguing their links to the city were too tenuous and that they were not obliged to admit everyone coming from a war zone like Syria.

"The Belgian State was not entitled to conclude that it was exempted from its positive obligation under Article 4 of the Charter," Mengozzi said, referring to the European Union's rulebook on human rights.

Mengozzi's opinion is not binding - however, the advocate general's comments are usually followed by the court, which is due to rule on the case of the Syrian family in the coming weeks. The ruling could affect policy across all EU member states.

Daily fines

Belgien Theo Francken (picture alliance/dpa/A. Belot)

Belgian State Secretary for Migration, Theo Francken, made controversial remarks that may cost the Belgian taxpayer hundreds of thousands of euros

Belgian Immigration Minister Theo Francken made a controversial statement about the family from Syria in November 2016, saying that he would rather sell his office furniture in order to pay daily fines for defying EU guidelines on admitting refugees instead of honoring a court ruling in favor of the Syrian family. Belgium has been fined 4,000 euros ($4,270) a day for defying a local appeal tribunal in the case. The family is believed still to be in Syria.

Many EU states are struggling to process and care for hundreds of thousand of refugees from the Middle East and North Africa, the majority of whom undertake perilous journeys to the EU to apply for asylum on arrival.

ss/rt (AP, Reuters, dpa)

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