The number of people entering Germany to join family members who have received temporary or 'subsidiary' protection status has reached its planned target of 1,000 per month. But critics are still calling for the cap to be lifted altogether.
The German government reintroduced family reunification visas for relatives of those with subsidiary protection last August after a two-year suspension. After months of dispute, the coalition parties agreed to lift the ban but to set a limit of 1,000 family members per month. In the first few months after the ban was lifted, however, only around half of that monthly quota of visas was issued.
The German interior ministry says that in December, the number of family reunification visas issued rose to 1,050, and that it increased further in January 2019 to 1,096. The ministry expects the figure to be about the same for February, the Neue Osnabrücker Zeitung reports. "Family reunion has picked up speed, the procedures have been well established," said a spokesperson for the interior ministry, quoted in the paper.
In Germany, subsidiary protection applies to those who do not qualify for asylum or refugee protection but face "serious harm" in their country of origin. They receive a one-year residence permit, which can be extended to two years. Most of those receiving subsidiary protection in Germany are from Syria. In December 2018, there were an estimated 300,000 people with subsidiary protection in Germany.
The family reunification scheme applies to spouses, unaccompanied children and parents of children living in Germany without their parents.
Call to lift restrictions
Though the government has reportedly achieved its goal of issuing 1,000 family reunification visas per month, the figure falls far short of the number of applications it received. In the first four months after the scheme was reintroduced, there were more than 44,760 requests for appointments at German embassies abroad from people wanting to apply to be reunited with family receiving subsidiary protection in Germany, the Süddeutsche Zeitung reported.
Ulla Jelpke, a parliamentarian from the party Die Linke, has demanded that the government abolish the limit of 1,000. "The restrictions must be lifted immediately," she said. "The right to family reunification must once again apply to all refugees."