How can I eat, how can I sleep when my daughter had no food and cannot sleep because she dreams she will be taken by Daesh?
- refugee in Ireland waiting for family reunification
Member states have a legal and moral obligation to ensure family reunification. International human rights standards require that people seeking protection can reunify with their families in an effective and timely manner. States must lift the many obstacles to family reunification and treat all people seeking protection equally.
- Nils Muižnieks, Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights
Who seeks protection?
People who face individual persecution in their countries can seek protection as refugee under the 1951 Refugee Convention.
People who flee more general dangers, such as war can be granted subsidiary protection. They are protected from return like refugees, but often get a less secure, shorter-term status.x
What obstacles do they face?
Tougher & discriminatory laws
Narrow family definition
What is family reunification?
The right to family life is recognised as essential for the well-being of individuals and societies.
The right to family life is protected by a set of international human rights norms and by the case law of the European Court of Human Rights. Refugees and other people seeking protection cannot return to their countries to be with their families.
For that reason, the right to family life implies a right to bring family members who were left behind to join them in their host country.
- The Universal Declaration of Human Rights
- The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
- The European Court of Human Rights
- The Convention on the Rights of the Child
- EU law
- The European Social Charter
Separation from family causes hardship, distress and isolation, both for the refugee and the family members left behind, often in precarious conditions.
Members of separated families are more prone to experience physical harm, sexual violence and mental disorders.
Separated refugee families who cannot go through the reunification procedures often take life-threatening routes to reach Europe to be reunited with their family. This has often led to tragedies and has enriched criminal organisations, which control these routes.x
Family life is essential for refugees to rebuild their lives in the host country.
Being reunited with their family improves refugees’ well-being, their employment prospects and the educational achievements of their children.x
What should States do?
Ease family reunification procedures to ensure that they are flexible, prompt, effective and happen in a reasonable time
Broaden the definition of family members eligible for reunification
Pay particular attention to children’s needs
Avoid onerous evidential requirements, prohibitive financial costs and intrusive medical tests
Take into account the practical obstacles refugees and their families face in reunification procedures, including with regards to obtaining and presenting the necessary documentation