Belgium: CALL annuls decision refusing humanitarian visa to Syrian Christians

Monday, February 29, 2016

This case relates to a Syrian couple aged 76 and 73, living in Aleppo, who had a Belgian son, who they were dependent on for financial support. He made visa applications on their behalf at the Belgian embassy in Istanbul in June 2015, which was refused in February 2016. They lodged an application to suspend the execution of this decision before the Council of Aliens Law Litigation (CALL) under the extreme urgency procedure.

In relation to the requirement of extreme urgency, the applicants relied on the risk of violation of Articles 3 and 8 ECHR. CALL found that the poor security situation was supported by the evidence and that the applicants had also raised personal circumstances relating to their age, their religion as practising Christians who were in particular danger in Aleppo, and their lack of family support; which demonstrated a sufficiently concrete and probable special vulnerability of risk of inhuman or degrading treatment. It recalled that due to the absolute nature of Article 3 ECHR, State Parties were obliged to prevent violations even where they may be committed by other authorities. It concluded that the applicants had sufficiently justified the ‘extreme urgency’ as the ordinary suspension procedure would not effectively prevent the occurrence of the risk of grave and irreparable damage affecting Article 8 and Article 3 ECHR.

The applicants alleged that the decision was insufficiently motivated, and relied on general principles of good administration, reasonableness and proportionality. It was not contested that family life existed between the applicants and their son and that the contested decision amounted to an interference with this. The refusal decision relied on the fact that the applicants had not proven the absence of other family members who could take care of them, or demonstrated that they would be able to obtain sickness insurance and means of subsistence in Belgium. CALL found that the decision failed to take into consideration all relevant factors including the risk of Article 3 harm and that the decision was not reasonable or proportionate with regard to the gravity of the situation in Aleppo and the particular vulnerability of the applicants. 

Finally, CALL found that implementation of the decision constituted an unjustified interference with family life, likely to cause grave and irreparable harm. As such the third cumulative condition was met.

The Belgian State was ordered to take a new decision within five days of notification of the judgment.

Based on an unofficial ELENA translation. The ELENA Weekly Legal Update would like to thank Mieke Van den Broeck for her assistance with this summary.

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Family member
Family reunification
Family unity (right to)
Inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment