As of March 2018, people will be able to apply to reunified with family members in Germany. But it is unclear how long this will last, as this issue is under debate between the political parties that will form the next German government.
The German foreign office has announced that it will be again accepting applications for family reunification. Those affected can apply for a visa to join family members in Germany at the appropriate German embassy from March 2018. Yet while preparations are in place to resume this program, the issue of family reunification is still a hot topic of debate in the exploratory coalition talks between German Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative CDU/CSU parties and the left-wing social democratic party, led by Martin Schulz.
At the beginning of 2016, with the huge influx of asylum seekers, the CDU/CSU and SPD decided to suspend family reunification for refugees with limited protection, such as civil war refugees. This regulation ends on March 16, 2018, after which the affected parties will again have a right to apply for family reunification. Whether this legal situation will be changed again is still disputed between the parties.
Calls for an end to the discussions on this issue
The domestic policy spokesperson for the Left, Ulla Jelpke, has demanded an end to the debate on a further suspension of family reunification. Jelpke said, as reported in the Osnabrücker Zeitung: "People must be able to rely on the promises of the state, and that is true in this case too. A further extension of the waiting period, contrary to previous promises and in order to appease right-wing agitators, would be a blatant breach of trust."
Strong criticism from conservatives
The Federal Foreign Office, however, has been strongly criticized by the CDU/CSU. Internal affairs spokesperson from the CSU, Stephan Meyer, told the Osnabrücker Zeitung: "The acting foreign minister should, in view of the exploratory negotiations, try to avoid creating facts. Even with regard to those affected, Sigmar Gabriel (from the SPD) should not raise expectations that may ultimately be disappointed. The Union, as the strongest political force, is calling for the suspension of family reunification to be extended."
Mainly Syrians affected
The issue of family reunification mainly affects civil war refugees from Syria, but also Iraq. The Institut für Arbeitsmarkt und Berufsforschung (IAB), the think tank of the Federal Employment Agency, has estimated that the reintroduction of family reunification for those with subsidiary protection would bring 50,000 - 60,000 additional relatives into Germany.