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The European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled today that EU countries can deny humanitarian visas to individuals who intend to apply for asylum once they are in the country. The court warned that allowing third-country nationals to obtain entry visas to obtain international protection in the EU state of their choice “would undermine the general structure” of the bloc’s asylum system.

The ruling is in response to a case where a Syrian family requested a 90-day humanitarian visa to Belgium in order to reach the country and then apply for asylum. The Belgian Foreigners’ Office refused the application citing that the family was planning on staying longer than 90 days. The case was appealed and sent to the ECJ.

Since the family was planning on applying for asylum the EU court agreed stating that, “Member States are not required, under EU law, to grant a humanitarian visa to persons who wish to enter their territory with a view to applying for asylum but they remain free to do so on the basis of their national law.”

The ruling came as a surprise since it contradicted ECJ Advocate General Paolo Mengozzi’s opinion that EU states should not deny these visas if it would place someone’s life in danger or subjected them “to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment.”

"They wanted to open Europe's migratory door, for asylum, via the consulates and embassies of the member states of the European Union throughout the world,” said Belgium's immigration minister, Theo Francken. "There is the possibility to request a humanitarian visa but it's the government that can decide to give it or not give it. We cannot be obliged to give one,” he added.

Read more on this story at the Associated Press.

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Updated: Mon, May 15th 2017 @ 4:35pm EDT