‘Excessive red tape’ prevents refugees from reuniting with their families says Red Cross

| November 28, 2014 | 0 Comments

450883188The 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 said: “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 Director of the Red Cross EU Office Leon Prop. “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 organizations, 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.

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Category: A Frontpage, EU, EU, Human Rights, Opinion

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