European Commission and EU Member States have been asked to guarantee the effective right to family life and family reunification for all migrants and beneficiaries of international protection.
In a joint statement, a group of 20 NGOs including Caritas Europa, European Council for Refugees and Exiles (ECRE), Jesuit Refugee Service Europe (JRS), European Network Against Racism (ENAR) and European Women’s Lobby (EWL), said it was in the interest of Member States to harmonize practices and legislation in the field of family reunification.
The NGOs reminded EU Member States that they “have the obligation to properly implement the EU Family Reunification Directive and to remove the many legal and practical obstacles to family reunion that exist today.”
They observed that a growing number of Member States were infringing the Directive’s minimum standards.
They also encouraged the European Commission to establish an on-going mechanism to monitor Member States’ implementation of the Directive and its practical impact on migrant families.
“Family is vitally important in the lives of all people, including migrants. Family reunification, a fundamental human right under EU law, enables families to live in dignity and helps their integration in society. Various research projects have found positive effects of family reunification and negative effects of restrictive policies and extended periods of separation, both for migrants and for the societies they live in,” the NGOs said.
They warned EU Member States against implementing restrictive family reunification policies and procedures saying that they can force family members to enter the country irregularly or over-stay their visa.
“Their irregular migration status restricts their basic rights and opportunities for integration while opening them up to exploitation and abuse,” they said.
The NGOs urged the EU Member States and the European Commission to remove practical obstacles to family reunification. The obstacles, they said, include high fees, complicated documentation, and difficult access to visas and travel documents for family members, particularly for beneficiaries of international protection.
Waiting periods and length of procedures should also be made as short as possible, they said. “The longer the waiting period or procedure, the more difficult family life becomes. When children are involved, the best interest of the child has to be given priority,” they said.