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EU Raking in Millions from Rejected Visa Applications

High Rejection Rates, Non-Refundable Fees Raise Concerns

by Victor Adetimilehin

The European Union (EU) is under fire for collecting significant sums of money from rejected visa applications, with a recent report revealing a system that disproportionately impacts African countries. According to Schengen visa statistics, the EU raked in €130 million in 2023 from visa application fees paid by individuals who were ultimately denied entry. This concerning figure is expected to climb even higher in 2024, following a recent increase in the EU visa application fee from €80 to €90.

Further compounding the issue is the non-refundable nature of these fees, leading experts to coin the term “reverse remittances” to describe this flow of money from lower-income countries to wealthier EU nations. Regardless of the application’s outcome, applicants lose the application fee, adding a financial burden to the rejection itself.

High Rejection Rates for African Countries

The report highlights a troubling trend: African countries are bearing the brunt of high visa rejection rates. Some nations are experiencing rejection rates as high as 40-50%, significantly higher than other regions. This disparity is further emphasized by the recent case of The Gambia. The EU lifted visa restrictions on The Gambia in April 2024 after a significant increase in their migrant return rate.

The EU defends its visa policy by citing concerns about irregular migration. The bloc estimates that roughly half of all undocumented migrants within its borders stem from overstayed visas. In 2023, only 19% of non-EU citizens (over 83,000 individuals) were returned to their home countries.

The EU has also begun wielding visa restrictions as a political tool, imposing sanctions on countries with low return rates. Ethiopia, for example, faced visa restrictions in April 2024 due to its perceived lack of cooperation in returning its citizens residing illegally in the EU.

Financial Burden and Missed Opportunities

Critics strongly condemn the EU’s visa policy, arguing that it unfairly penalizes citizens from low- and middle-income countries. The combination of a high visa application fee and a high rejection rate creates a significant financial hurdle for many applicants. Beyond the financial cost, visa rejections can have far-reaching negative consequences. Denied applicants may miss out on crucial business opportunities, educational experiences, or even personal visits with family.

Marta Foresti, a development expert, emphasizes the tangible consequences of visa inequality. “The world’s poorest pay the steepest price,” she said. “These rejected visa application fees function as a form of reverse remittances, siphoning money away from developing countries and into the coffers of wealthier nations. The conversation around aid and migration rarely addresses these hidden costs, and it’s high time we start.”

The issue of EU visa rejections is likely to remain a contentious topic. As the EU grapples with managing migration concerns, it faces the challenge of striking a balance between security and fairness within its visa application process. 

Source: Punch


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