The last couple of decades, European countries have introduced the possibility to grant residence permits on humanitarian grounds. The different categories of reasons for the granting of permits can be divided into compassionate; age, health, family unity or long term residence and those who are not returnable for legal reasons; stateless persons, victims of trafficking, persons displaced because of environmental factors, excludable persons at risk of torture or ill-treatment, or, finally, because of technical reasons. The granting of residence permits on humanitarian grounds is considered by States to lie outside the requirements of international law and therefore at the discretion of national authorities, which means that the qualification for eligibility, thresholds, standard of proof and level of rights attached to the status, remain unharmonized throughout Europe. This prompts questions of adherence to the rule of law, inequality and possible discrimination. This dissertation sought to establish, firstly, that there is a moral duty for states to provide protection to these categories, which is comparable to those who have recognized international protection needs based on refugee claims or claims for subsidiary protection. Secondly, that the provision of international protection to the categories mentioned above is based on international law standards, in particular, international and European human rights law, and that the way forward is to continue the harmonization at regional level.