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Excessive red tape prevents refuges from reuniting with their family

The European Council on Refugees and Exiles (ECRE) and the Red Cross EU Office have released a report “Disrupted Flight – The Realities of Separated Refugee Families in the EU”.

The report reviews domestic practices in 12 EU Member States in relation to family reunification revealing that beneficiaries of international protection in the UE often fall victim to excessive red tape when seeking to exercise their right to be reunited with their families. Lawyers with the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights have prepared an analysis of the situation in Poland.

Many refugees are forced to leave their home to flee war, violence, persecution or repression and they often undertake a perilous journey to safety in Europe. The family reunification procedure allows beneficiaries of international protection to apply for their families to join them in their host country. Exercising the right to be reunited with a family is the key to the well-being and integration of people fleeing war and persecution.

The report underlines the inadequacy of the current family reunification procedures when compared to the realities of the refugee situation. Particularly challenging is the requirement to obtain supporting documents evidencing family ties from states in conflict or where a refugee’s family is, for instance, in refugee camps in a neighbouring country. “Family members of a refugee often have to travel hundreds of miles to the nearest Polish consulate to have the validity of their travel document confirmed”, notes Karolina Rusiłowicz, HFHR’s lawyer.

First and foremost, this procedure is very expensive as a refugee must provide at their own expense certified translations of all the required documents, pay fees for applications for visas and permits and pay for the travel costs of their family.

Current procedures tend to lead to further isolation of foreigners granted international protection and separation of families, which goes against the purpose of the Council Directive of 22 September 2003 on the right to family reunification and violates the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights. ECRE and the Red Cross EU Office recommend that a protection-oriented approach to family reunification procedures be applied to reflect the principle of family unity and protection of the rights of refugees. They also appeal to the Member States to ensure effective access to embassies and consulates abroad, without unnecessary obstacles, such as disproportionate documentary evidence or unjustified presence requirements.

To view the report, use this link.

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