Family Reunification in Asylum Law. A Comment.

It is the 25th of December, and a strange year is coming to an end. Many of us are celebrating Christmas these days. Probably just as many of us have recently been asking ourselves: What works, what doesn’t? Can I meet my family? How can I protect elderly family members? Discussions about the value of a traditionally Western family celebration have been public and heavily discussed in the context of easing the restrictions. Not to mention that not everyone celebrates Christmas. For those that do, some of you will likely have – with a heavy heart – given up visiting family this year. For others, Christmas without family is unthinkable.

Family Reunification in Asylum Law

Family – Who Can Come and to Whom?      

We would like to take this opportunity to draw attention to the “value and protection of the family” in the context of the asylum procedure. Because, here too, it becomes apparent that the legal value and protection of the (German) family is of a different importance than that of asylum-seekers. For many of those entitled to protection, this is not the first year where they are separated from their family members. Many of them do not know when, or even if at all, they will be able to embrace their family again.

Who Belongs to the Family – Definition by Law

In principle, recognized asylum seekers are entitled to so-called “privileged family reunification” under German law. In concrete terms, this means that after the positive conclusion of the asylum procedure of a “so-called parent beneficiary”, further family members in the country of application, Germany, are also entitled to protection. This sounds promising at first, but upon closer inspection it is tied to many conditions: Laws define who is and is not part of the family and what exact requirements must be met in order for an application to be approved. For example, only underage, unmarried siblings fall under the definition of “family”. There are deadlines to meet, evidence to present, etc. There is also a distinction between family asylum and family reunification, with different consequences for the residence titles of the family members joining them. And of course, there is still discretionary power of the authorities to examine individual cases – which can be of advantage or disadvantage for the granting.

Subsidiary Protection – Family Reunification Has a Limit

Relatives of beneficiaries of subsidiary protection status have been allowed to apply since 2018 – but only 1,000 people are admitted per month and prioritization is applied. Family reunification in Germany therefore has a limit. Those entitled to protection by the state of Germany are – to put it simply – state persecuted (“entitled to asylum”), non-state and state persecuted (“refugees”) and the just mentioned “beneficiaries of subsidiary protection”. These include persons who do not fall into any of the first categories, but who can prove that they would be in serious danger if returned – for example those fleeing from torture or armed conflict in their country of origin. In terms of the value of family, this makes them second-class asylum seekers, and they must hope that their relatives will eventually be part of the 1,000 applications approved each month.

Family Reunification for All Asylum Seekers!

If we want something for Christmas this year, it’s this: The same right to family reunification for all recognized asylum seekers. The asylum procedure in Germany seems to make it exceedingly difficult for certain groups of people to see their families again and thus gain a bit of normality in a foreign country. After all, who can build a new life if their loved ones are still in danger? The “protection of marriage and family” is anchored in our Basic Law (Art. 6 GG) and should apply to all people living here!

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