The CEELI Institute’s newest publication addresses problems with current European Union policies on multiple entry and long-stay visas which raise substantial barriers for human rights defenders (HRDs) seeking to come to Europe for limited periods of time for fellowships, workshops, study, respite, and in some cases, security. These are not asylum seekers; these are individuals who are engaged in work in their home countries, and who fully intend to return home after their stays in the EU. Most problematically, EU visa policy is inconsistent with long-articulated EU policies on respect for human rights, which are foundational values of the European Union. The CEELI Institute first encountered these problems in the course of our ongoing work to support these HRDs. As a result, we undertook research, analyzed relevant EU materials, interviewed hundreds of affected HRDs, and ultimately developed and published recommendations for reform of current EU visa policies in ways that would improve the treatment of HRDs. That report, Human Rights Defenders in EU Visa Policy: Recommendations for Reform, highlights the conflict and inconsistencies between EU visa policies and EU human rights policies. Our report, written with support from the Oak Foundation, reflects a year of research, surveys of more than 100 human rights defenders from eight non-EU countries, and an examination of individual case studies.
EU Parliamentarians Take Up CEELI’s Call 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 policymakers, 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.
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CEELI Launches Dedicated Website Highlighting the Challenges Faced by HRDs Seeking EU Visas
The CEELI Institute announces that it has created a special section of our website dedicated to highlighting the need for changes and modifications to EU visa policies. As part of our project efforts aimed at highlighting the need for changes and modifications to EU visa policies, the CEELI Institute has created a special section of our website dedicated to this issue. This website features case studies, a visualization of the data gathered from our human rights defender survey, the full report, and the executive summary and recommendations translated into several EU languages. The site also hosts a short advocacy video based upon a real case of a human rights lawyer under serious threat seeking access to the EU, and the challenges and dangers he faced as a result of administrative decisions in the visa application process.