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:

red cross 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.

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.


– A man from Afghanistan who was a beneficiary of subsidiary protection wanted to be reunited with his wife and six children. Since fleeing Afghanistan in 2011 the family had been living illegally in Peshawar (Pakistan) and unable to regularise their stay. Their security was at risk as one of the children was kidnapped and his whereabouts remain unknown. Nevertheless the Austrian authorities rejected the reunification claim arguing that the man could also live together with his family in Pakistan.

– A Somali man granted subsidiary protection fled to Eritrea and lived in a UNHCR refugee camp for years. He met his Somali spouse there, married her and they had a son. He then fled to Austria alone and applied for family reunification. His application was refused on the grounds that family was formed after his departure from Somalia.

– Syrian refugees granted subsidiary protection have to wait for one year before they can apply for family reunification. As their family members sometimes still live in Syria or as refugees in a neighbouring country, this waiting period exposes people to greater vulnerability and additional threats.

– Applicants have to cover all travel costs, which can be up to € 8,000 depending on the size of the family and the country of origin.

– Austrian authorities tend not to accept marriage certificates issued by certain countries. Somali and Afghan marriage certificates are not recognised as official documentation proving marital relationships, thus leading to rejection of applications for family reunification. Additional interviews or other investigations are often not carried out.

– A Tibetan woman could be reunited with her child following a successful DNA test, but not with her husband because the marriage certificate could not be presented.

The report is available online here.

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