A Syrian familiy in Lower Saxony
A Syrian familiy in Lower Saxony

A study has found that the number of refugees whose loved ones may join them in Germany is much lower than government estimates. The figures potentially remove an obstacle for Chancellor Angela Merkel in coalition talks.

The number of migrants who qualify to join their family members who were granted asylum in Germany is much smaller than the government had previously estimated, according to a study published on Thursday.

The Institute for Employment Research (IAB) found that by the end of this year, between 100,000 to 120,000 spouses and children of individuals who have been granted full refugee status would qualify to come to Germany.

For asylum-seekers who have been granted subsidiary protection, an additional 50,000 to 60,000 relatives would qualify to join their loved ones.

The figures are much smaller than previous estimates from the German government, which estimated at the height of refugee arrivals in 2015 that family reunifications could double or triple the number of refugees in Germany.

The Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF) estimated in June 2016 that for every Syrian refugee in Germany, one relative is entitled to join them.

IAB noted that the figures underline the demographic makeup of the asylum-seekers in Germany, namely that a majority are young and single.

"The refugees are a young group and mainly single," IAB said. "Only 46 percent of adult refugees are married and only 43 percent have children."

Over one million asylum-seekers have entered Germany since 2015. The IAB estimated that by the end of this year, around 600,000 will have been allowed to stay in the country.

IAB's study did not include the over 65,000 unaccompanied minors who have arrived in the last three years who are also entitled to bring family members including parents, siblings or children.

Coalition hurdle removed?

Concerns over family reunifications cropped up time and time again in television debates ahead of Germany's general election on September 24.

Reunifications have also proven to be a highly contentious topic in exploratory coalition talks between Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU), their Bavarian sister-party the Christian Social Union (CSU), the business-friendly Free Democrats (FPD) and the Greens.

Merkel's conservatives want to continue suspending the right to family reunions for asylum-seekers who only have subsidiary protection after March 2018. The suspension of family reunions for those with subsidiary protection has impacted Syrian migrants the most.

The move clashes with the Greens who back a more liberal immigration approach and say that family reunifications are vital for integration. The FDP appears split on the matter.

The low numbers, however, could clear one of the biggest hurdles to forming a government.

rs/jm (Reuters, KNA, epd)

First published: October 19, 2017

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