PBI signs Joint Statement in support of temporary relocation visas to the EU for at-risk human rights defenders

Published by Brent Patterson on

Peace Brigades International has signed this Joint Statement that says: “Human rights defenders have the right to carry out their legitimate work safely and to access support and protection when they are at risk, especially those who operate in the most difficult contexts.”

The statement continues:

Human rights defenders often carry out their work at great personal risk, and increasingly face killings, attacks, threats, and acts of intimidation because of their peaceful activities, in addition to being subjected to repression, restrictive legislation, and judicial harassment.

For these at-risk human rights defenders, the possibility of accessing a visa to a European territory emerges as an essential security and protection tool, which empowers them to carry out their activities in their countries in a more secure and protected way.

Visas and multiple-entry visas are widely regarded by the international human rights defenders community as a vital element of a comprehensive security strategy, one that enables defenders to consider the possibility to move in and out of their country in a way that allows them to manage the level of risk that they face as a result of their work, and to continue to work in their communities without forcing them to resort to permanent asylum paths when facing aggravated threats.

[The] lack of reliable, predictable, and coherent access for human rights defenders to EU visas unnecessarily aggravates the risk, isolation, and vulnerability they face as a result of their work – which is exacerbated for those defenders belonging to particularly threatened groups – such as women human rights defenders, LGBTI rights defenders, or indigenous rights defenders; for those facing spurious criminalisation processes aimed at impeding their mobility, or for those without secure access to basic travel documents.

The statement calls on EU stakeholders to:

1- Propose a specific facilitated procedure for human rights defenders within the EU Visa Code, setting common criteria and defining the elements of a facilitated procedure;

2- Include instructions in the EU Visa Handbook on granting facilitations to HRDs and their family members;

3- Work towards amending the legal instruments on visas, particularly the Visa Code, and

4- Introduce amendments to the Temporary Protection Directive that allow temporary protection status in the EU to be granted to defenders at risk.

To read the full text, go to 50 organisations call the European Union to facilitate visas for human rights defenders.

Canada lacks a Temporary Protection Directive

In February 2021, PBI-Canada asked: Could Canada implement a relocation program for human rights defenders as Germany, the Netherlands and Ireland have done?

In June 2021, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced: “This year, we will launch a dedicated refugee stream for human rights defenders at risk, which will enable Canada to become one of the first countries to offer dedicated protection spaces to this population of refugees.”

Along with this stream for the permanent relocation of human rights defenders, a temporary relocation program for 3-6 month stays would also be a welcome addition to the range of protection strategies for at-risk human rights defenders.

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