The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe’s (PACE) Committee for Migration, Refugees and Displaced Persons has called on member states to facilitate the issuance of emergency visas for the victims of earthquakes that struck southern Turkey and northern Syria in early February.
The committee adopted a declaration on Monday on the margin of the assembly’s plenary session in Strasbourg.
“Trusting our respective countries to show the solidarity and hospitality they are able to express, they [members of the committee] encourage Council of Europe member States to facilitate the issuance of emergency visas to the populations affected by the earthquakes who may wish to be reunited temporarily with their loved ones,” the declaration said.
A 7.8-magnitude earthquake that struck near the Turkish city of Gaziantep – home to around 2 million people and on the border with Syria – as people were sleeping on February 6 was followed by dozens of aftershocks, including a 7.5-magnitude temblor that jolted the region in the middle of search and rescue efforts the same day.
“… the committee welcomes the initiatives already taken by the Belgian, Dutch, German and Swiss authorities to enable such processing. It also calls on member States and their consular services to speed up the examination of family reunification visa requests by those who can claim this right from Türkiye,” the European parliamentarians said.
According to relief organizations the impact of the earthquakes will be felt for months and years to come.
The damage in Turkey alone could amount to over $100 billion and $14.8 billion in Syria, the UN said and launched a $1 billion funding appeal to support millions of people in Turkey.
The committee has 81 members who are appointed to PACE by the national delegations.