Family reunification rights of refugees and beneficiaries of subsidiary protection

14-02-2020

Separation of family members can have devastating consequences on their well-being and ability to rebuild their lives. This is true for everybody, but especially so for persons who have fled persecution or serious harm and have lost family during forced displacement and flight. In the case of beneficiaries of international protection, family separation can affect their ability to engage in many aspects of the integration process, from education and employment to putting down roots, as well as harming their physical and emotional health. That is why family reunification is a fundamental aspect of bringing normality to the lives of such people. While EU law ensures refugees and holders of subsidiary protection – the two types of beneficiaries of international protection – equal treatment in most areas, differences remain, among others, as regards family reunification in accordance with the Family Reunification Directive. Unlike refugees, beneficiaries of subsidiary protection do not enjoy the favourable conditions associated with the right to family reunification. After 2015, most EU Member States witnessed a significant increase in the number of asylum-seekers arriving in their territory, paralleled by an increase in the number of beneficiaries of international protection seeking reunification with their families. To establish some form of control over this unprecedented flow of people, Member States shifted away from awarding refugee status towards granting subsidiary protection, thus restricting the possibility of beneficiaries to reunite with their families. According to many legal experts, the fact that beneficiaries of subsidiary protection face stricter requirements regarding family reunification than do refugees disregards the particular circumstances related to their forced displacement and the corresponding difficulties they are likely to face in meeting these stricter requirements.

Separation of family members can have devastating consequences on their well-being and ability to rebuild their lives. This is true for everybody, but especially so for persons who have fled persecution or serious harm and have lost family during forced displacement and flight. In the case of beneficiaries of international protection, family separation can affect their ability to engage in many aspects of the integration process, from education and employment to putting down roots, as well as harming their physical and emotional health. That is why family reunification is a fundamental aspect of bringing normality to the lives of such people. While EU law ensures refugees and holders of subsidiary protection – the two types of beneficiaries of international protection – equal treatment in most areas, differences remain, among others, as regards family reunification in accordance with the Family Reunification Directive. Unlike refugees, beneficiaries of subsidiary protection do not enjoy the favourable conditions associated with the right to family reunification. After 2015, most EU Member States witnessed a significant increase in the number of asylum-seekers arriving in their territory, paralleled by an increase in the number of beneficiaries of international protection seeking reunification with their families. To establish some form of control over this unprecedented flow of people, Member States shifted away from awarding refugee status towards granting subsidiary protection, thus restricting the possibility of beneficiaries to reunite with their families. According to many legal experts, the fact that beneficiaries of subsidiary protection face stricter requirements regarding family reunification than do refugees disregards the particular circumstances related to their forced displacement and the corresponding difficulties they are likely to face in meeting these stricter requirements.