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“Disrupted Flight – The Realities of Separated Refugee Families in the EU

New report on the implementation of the right to family reunification for people in need of international protection in the European Union.

The European Council on Refugees and Exiles (ECRE) and the Red Cross EU Office, along with several members of both networks (including the Hungarian Helsinki Committee) 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.

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.

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.The report sheds light on the specific problems faced by refugees and their family members. It 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. 

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, they 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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Hungarian Helsinki Committee