It was a key point of disagreement between the parties, but Chancellor Angela Merkel’s CDU/CSU bloc appears to have reached a compromise with its coalition partner, the Social Democrats (SPD) with regard to migrant family reunions. There is, however, still some disagreement on the finer points. Sertan Sanderson reports.
More than four months after general elections, Germany seems to be on the way to finally forming a new government. German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s CDU/CSU parliamentary group is on track with forming a new administration with the Social Democrats (SPD) under the leadership of Martin Schulz.
One of the final points of disagreement between the two parties seems to have been ironed out: the issue of migrant family reunifications.
What changes can be expected?
The stop on family reunifications remains in place until the end of July 2018. The agreement between the two parties states that 1,000 individual family members will be permitted per month as from August 2018. However, in addition to that, the case of reunifications under “extreme circumstances” – which already is in place – will remain on the books, which means that Germany can likely expect more than 1,000 refugees joining their families per month.
However, there is still some disagreement between the parties on whether these cases of extreme circumstances will have to be part of the 1,000 family members that will be allowed per month or whether they will be in addition to that number. SPD politicians, however, have already started using the term “1,000plus” to refer to the solution.
What does the term “extreme circumstances” entail?
There is no single definition of the term, which allows for interpretation; however, this doesn’t mean that the term can necessarily be stretched or adapted to individual needs. The term can be applied to various aspects of German law and isn’t exclusive to immigration law. The onus of proving extreme circumstances lies with the person applying for this provision.
There is a widely reported case of a Syrian man successfully getting his second wife to Germany as part of a family reunification application – despite polygamy being forbidden in German law. The court decided in favour of the woman because of her child living in Germany, and not because of her marital status with the applicant. The protection of children is particularly important when it comes to German asylum laws.
Is this the final words in refugee family reunifications?
SPD leader Martin Schulz said he wanted the term to be interpreted more loosely than it has been thus far, allowing for more family reunifications to take place under the banner of “extreme circumstances” than has been the case to date. Other politicians from his party have made similar remarks, saying that current agreement was an “intermediate step” at best. The issue is bound to keep making headlines.
How many people will qualify for family reunifications under the “extreme circumstances” provision?
In 2017, less than 100 visas were given to refugee family members across Germany for the purpose of family reunifications under extreme circumstances. This would imply that qualifying under this provision is rather difficult; human rights organizations have said they believe this low number represents reluctance on the part of local authorities to carry out family reunifications.
Many hope that the number of 1,000 family reunifications per month should cover the needs of most people who have been waiting for their family members to join them – though they might have to brace themselves for long waiting periods.
Who does not qualify for family reunifications?
Whether you apply presenting a case of “extreme circumstances” or not, there are other limitations on who may qualify for a family reunification. The law generally only allows for direct relative to join, meaning spouses, underage unmarried children, underage unmarried siblings, and parents or caretakers of underage migrants.
With the civil war still continuing in parts of Syria, there are cases that might qualify with fewer hurdles than cases from other countries. The Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF) has more information about all issues relating to immigration and family reunifications on their website at www.bamf.de.