*This text is an answer to the question of Alessio Scandurra from Observation Mission “Detention Conditions of Adults” at the Antigone Association in Italy “Can Human Rights Activists Facing Trouble in their Countries Find Protection in the EU?”
First, if you are planning to proceed with human rights activism after moving to another country, you should avoid asking for asylum. In this case you would be prevented from working in a normal way for a long period of time – from six months, which is considered very fast, up to two years or longer. If you cannot avoid applying for asylum (if, say, you are facing criminal charges), but have an opportunity to choose the country, you would have the best chance in Finland, Sweden, Norway, Estonia, Lithuania or Great Britain. Germany is a reasonable country too, though because of large numbers of refugees from the Middle East it can take the authorities more than two years to process an application.
In fact, there is no special procedure for issuing residence permits to human rights activists. The German law allows for an application for a so called residence permit on humanitarian grounds, although most such applications are rejected. The Swedish government is known for making exceptions. This type of residence permits is being discussed in Brussels, but talks are in the initial stage and have so far produced no results. Why is it important? In most cases human rights activists have long-term C-type visas valid from six months to five years. This type of visa allows its carrier to stay in the Shengen countries for 90 days within each 180 days. If you have to stay longer, a D-type visa is required and cam normally be applied for in the country of permanent residence.