CEELI Joins Forces with European Parliamentarians to Safeguard Treatment of Human Rights Defenders under EU Visa Policies

The CEELI Institute has now been working for over a year to raise awareness of the visa problem among European policy makers, culminating in our report, Human Rights Defenders in EU Visa Policy: Recommendations for Reform, and in our related outreach efforts.

CEELI’s work, and our report, have subsequently attracted the attention of members of the European Union Parliament. This first resulted in an invitation to CEELI’s Director of Special Projects, Jennifer Gaspar, to present our recommendations and findings at a session of the EU Parliament’s Human Rights Committee in Brussels in January 2020.

More recently, CEELI’s efforts have now inspired the creation of the ‘Visa Friendship Group’ in the European Parliament, a 19- member group of EU Parliamentarians from 10 Member States who are dedicated to pushing visa policy reform forward at the EU level. The group, led by EU MEP Hannah Neumann (Germany, Green Party) held its inaugural meeting on April 15, 2021, where Jennifer Gaspar of CEELI presented the final report and recommendations to the group, and discussed possible remedies that can be taken in the short and long term to human rights defender colleagues. Among those recommendations:

  • The European Commission must provide specific instructions for Member States on granting visa facilitations for HRDs, including rapid handling, and instructions on how to waive specific considerations such as proof of employment, income, marital status, and prison terms – all of these are issues that have resulted in HRDs being denied visas.
  • Amend the EU Visa Code to address relevant shortcomings and introduce specific facilitations for HRDs based on a clear definition.
  • Promoted good practices and case studies from member states (particularly Spain and Lithuania) to serve as models for other EU member states and a template for an EU-wide policy.

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