According to information from the German government, almost 11,000 migrants are hoping to join their refugee relatives already in Germany via family reunification visas. Many are still waiting for appointments to complete the application.
At the end of March, 10,974 migrants with relatives who have already been granted either refugee or subsidiary protection status in Germany were waiting for appointments to determine the outcome of family reunification visas they had applied for. That's according to an answer from the German government in response to a question recently posed by the Left party (Die Linke) in the German Parliament.
The information was made public by the Funke Media Group (Funke Mediengruppe) on Tuesday, June 22. The majority of those waiting, Funke Media Group reported, had applied for family reunification via embassies in Turkey, Northern Iraq and Lebanon.
Refugee status and subsidiary protection
Many Syrians in Germany benefit from refugee status or subsidiary protection. Unlike refugee status, subsidiary or limited protection essentially offers, to those who receive it, a time-limited protection because they are deemed to be at threat of serious harm in their own countries.
The number of those applying for family reunification, however, is still under the quota of 1,000. In the fall of 2018, the German government had agreed that up to 1,000 people could join their families each month, capping the quota at 12,000 per year.
According to the German news agency dpa, citing figures from the German Foreign Ministry from January 2021 show that 264 people were issued family reunification visas by German consulates and embassies around the world. In February, the figure rose a little to 473; in March, it dipped slightly to 442. In April, it was at 363, confirming a downward trend.
Last year, Germany granted a total of 5,311 relatives of refugees with subsidiary protection visas to come to Germany under the family reunification program -- far fewer than would have been possible by legal means. Part of the slowdown was due to restrictions on travel and foreign office services following the outbreak of the pandemic. In 2019, the number of issued visas was more than twice as high.
Number of issued visas 'shameful'
Ulla Jelpke, the spokesperson for the Left faction in the German parliament for interior affairs, criticized the drop in numbers. Jelpke said it was "shameful that at the moment only a few hundred of those with refugee status or subsidiary protection were able to bring their family members over to join them."
In a tweet in German, she posted a link to the open letter she wrote to Germany's Foreign Minister Heiko Maas on the subject. In it she criticized the "unreasonable waiting times" and the "impossible bureaucratic conditions" imposed on those hoping to apply. She challenged the German government to appoint a special official to oversee family reunification in the future.
Currently, Jelpke pointed out, "not even half of the quota is being fulfilled." dpa called the process to actually apply for family reunification very "complex."
Last month, Germany's Protestant and Catholic Churches called for more support to reunite refugee families and families of those with subsidiary protection in Germany.