New report on family reunification
27-11-2014 Press Release
Excessive red tape prevents refugees from reuniting with their families
New report on the implementation of the right to family reunification for people in need of international protection in the European Union
(Brussels, 27 November 2014) – The European Council on Refugees and Exiles (ECRE) and the Red Cross EU Office, along with several members of both networks are releasing the report "Disrupted Flight - The Realities of Separated Refugee Families in the EU”. The report examines national practices across Europe in relation to family reunification, revealing that beneficiaries of international protection in the European Union (EU) often face excessive red tape when seeking to reunite with their families.
Getting family members to join them in their new host country is key to the well-being and integration of people fleeing war and persecution. Many refugees are forced to leave their home alone because of conflict, violence, persecution or repression, and often undertake a perilous journey to reach safety in the EU. The constant worry for the family that they have left behind, as well as the absence of any relatives who could support them in their country of asylum, increase the vulnerability of these migrants, that have already been exposed to extremely traumatic experiences. Hawa, a Somali refugee who fled her war-torn country says: "I think that I may have lost my children. It feels like I am on fire”. For Hawa, the battle to be reunited with her children has become a Kafkaesque tale of red tape. For her, the family reunification procedure is nearly as painful as the violence she had to flee: "I no longer know what is worse to endure”.
"Current family reunification procedures in the EU tend to lead to further isolation and separation of families” said Leon Prop, Director of the Red Cross EU Office. "Lengthy and costly procedures are a burden for families that are already living in a precarious situation”.
"In times of trouble, our first concern is to make sure that families are together and safe”, said ECRE’s Secretary General, Michael Diedring. "The anguish of refugees who have found asylum in Europe is deepened by lengthy delays and requests for documents that are impossible to attain, amongst other insurmountable hurdles that prevent them from bringing their families to safety”, he added. "How can we expect people to rebuild their lives in Europe with the constant fear that their family is still in danger?”
Drawing on the experience and expertise of ECRE and Red Cross EU Office member organisations, the report "Disrupted Flight - The Realities of Separated Refugee Families in the EU” sheds light on the specific problems faced by refugees and their family members. In France for example, unaccompanied children that are recognised as refugees can be reunited with their parents, but not with their siblings. This restriction forces families to choose to either leave some of their children behind, or not join one of their children in Europe.
The report also highlights the inadequacy of the procedure when compared to the realities of refugee flight. Requiring family members to travel back to a country they were forced to flee and approach the embassy of the relevant Member State in that country is often extremely difficult, especially in regions of conflict where embassies are closed or overwhelmed. Such administrative requirements also increase the vulnerabilities of refugees as it is often costly and dangerous.
The report covers the family reunification process in 12 Member States: Austria, Belgium, Estonia, France, Finland, Hungary, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Poland, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom.
Current procedures tend to lead to further isolation and the separation of families, which is contrary to the stated objective of the Council Directive of 22 September 2003 on the right to family reunification and in breach of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights. ECRE and the Red Cross EU Office recommend that a protection-oriented approach to family reunification procedures is applied, in order for the right to family reunification to be effective. Finally, we recommend further reflection so as to ensure effective access to embassies and consulates abroad, without unnecessary obstacles such as disproportionate documentary evidence or unjustified presence requirements.
The report is available online here.
Notes for editors:
• The Red Cross EU Office represents Red Cross National Societies in the European Union, Norway and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) before the institutions of the European Union. It works to increase Red Cross influence on European Union policy, legislation and practice so as to improve the humanitarian situation of the most vulnerable, and aims to increase EU resources for Red Cross Red Crescent work at home and abroad.
Contact: Virginie Louis, Senior Communication Officer
+32 2 235 03 86+32 2 235 03 86
• The European Council on Refugees and Exiles (ECRE) is a pan-European alliance of 82 NGOs protecting and advancing the rights of refugees, asylum seekers and displaced persons. Its mission is to promote the establishment of fair and humane European asylum policies and practices in accordance with international human rights law.
Contact: Ana López Fontal, Senior Press & Public Information Officer
+32 2 212 08 55+33 6 51 02 88 55