Between August 2019 and June 2020, Germany gave out almost 6,000 family reunification visas to family members of refugees and those with subsidiary protection in Germany. These numbers remain below the government limit -- partly due to the travel bans during the coronavirus pandemic.
In total, between August 2019 and June 2020, the German foreign office gave out 5,921 reunification visas for family members of refugees and those who held subsidiary protection in the country, states German news agency dpa.
The figures, released by Germany’s foreign office, show that for most of the months during that period, Germany failed to meet the 1,000 per month quota allowed for these types of visas. Part of the slowdown, reported dpa, was due to restrictions on travel and foreign office services due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The majority of those refugees and subsidiary protection claimants who have received the visas for their family members come from Syria, writes dpa.
The request for family reunification, writes dpa, has to be made from abroad by the party which wants to join someone in Germany. Many of Germany’s foreign office employees abroad were working reduced hours because of the pandemic and so that held up the process still further.
In March 2020, 480 family reunification visas were granted before the coronavirus restrictions came into force in the middle of the month. In April, just four were granted, in May one and then in June, as restrictions began to be lifted a further 43 were given out. The figures for July are not yet available.
Suspension for subsidiary protection holders
Due to the high demand for reunification visas, Germany in 2016 suspended the process for subsidiary protection holders altogether. Subsidiary protection is a weaker protection form than refugee status.
However, two years later in 2018, the government resumed the process and agreed that a maximum of 1,000 visas per month could be handed out. According to dpa, since August last year, the maximum number of visas actually granted has always been less than 900.
'Not enough appointments'
Since the process started up again, according to dpa, there have been a total of 15,714 family reunification visas given out. The group Pro Asyl, which argues for the rights of refugees and asylum seekers says that the low numbers mean that the right to family reunification is being taken away from certain groups who should be able to access it.
Pro Asyl told dpa that the rules are "far too complicated" and that "not enough appointments were being given out" to assess the cases by foreign office employees in the countries where people were applying for the visa.
In June 2017, a report from the European Union EU and the German Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF) found that some people in countries neighboring Syria were waiting for more than one and a half years to obtain an appointment in order to apply for a family reunification visa.
When applying for family reunification, the refugee in Germany must be able to demonstrate "sufficient living space," a valid healthcare insurance and "sufficient means of subsistence for themselves and their family members". Additionally, "certain groups of immigrants will need to provide proof of their German language skills before they are issued with a visa and /or successfully attend language and orientation courses in the framework of the integration course after their arrival in Germany."
For refugees who have been resettled, and those who have the right to asylum or are recognized refugees, the need to provide for the whole family financially can be waived, said the report, as long as they "file the application for family reunification within three months after the final recognition of their protection status."
At the time that report was compiled, Horst Seehofer, writes dpa, said that Germany could be facing hundreds of thousands of applications for family reunification, given that a million people arrived in the country between 2015 and 2016. However, according to dpa, at the end of 2019 there were worldwide a total of "22,000 open requests for family reunification," for those who hold subsidiary protection status in Germany.