AHQ on Policies for family members of beneficiaries of international protection (2014)
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All responding MS indicated that they had specific migration policy for family members of persons who have been granted refugee status as well as for beneficiaries of subsidiary protection, except Lithuania, the UK, Norway and Sweden.Sweden states that everyone who has a close family member in Sweden with a permanent residence permit is allowed to join this person irrespective of the grounds for the permanent residence status of the family member. This is in keeping with Norwegian practice in this matter. Norway is however, the only country that mentions the age requirement and working/studying period of 4 years for family reunification with spouses. In Lithuania, beneficiaries of subsidiary protection have no right to family reunification.
Most of the MS have similar categories as regards who is defined as a family member with the exception of Romania who has a somewhat stricter practice in relation to family reunification of refugees. There is frequent mention of the necessity of a documented, pre-established relationship between the person granted asylum and their family members seeking family reunification, but in Sweden and Norway, even future spouses are considered. In France, any foreign national whose personal and family ties in France are such that refusal to grant residence in France would disproportionately affect his/her right to respect for private and family life, may be issued a one-year temporary residence permit; a practice reported by several other MS. Parents of young women who risk female circumcision are given special consideration in France. Family ties are especially appreciated in terms of their intensity, age and stability, in terms of life conditions of the individual, his/her integration into French society and the nature of his/her relationship with the family staying in the country of origin. In some exceptional cases, Sweden also allows for family reunification with healthy adult children who have previously lived with their parents (where the parents are dependent on the children?).
The general list of acceptable family members that can be considered for family reunification include (see attached file for further details):
a) The spouse or partner with whom the beneficiary of international protection has a stable relationship
b) The minor, unmarried and dependent children of the beneficiary irrespective of whether they were born out of wedlock, including adopted children.
c) Adult children suffering from mental or physical disability rendering them unable to file an individual application for international protection. (- the adult child with a disability, if he can not meet his own needs/ adult child that cannot cope.) The Netherlands stipulates that a factual family bond between the main person and his adult child is only presumed if this child is more than normally (emotionally) dependent on him.
d) The mother or father or the person who is responsible for the beneficiary of international protection, in case he/she is minor and unmarried and the minor’s siblings. (an unaccompanied minor who was granted the subsidiary protection status or refugee status.)
e) The parents of the beneficiary of international protection who formed part of the latter’s household at the time they abandoned their country of origin and they were dependant, wholly or in part, on the beneficiary.
f) If the adoption has been attested to by a foreign decree of adoption, it is usually recognized. Practice with including foster children in family reunification varies.
g) Finland specifically mentions that persons of the same sex in a nationally registered partnership is also considered a family member and persons living continuously in a marriage-like relationship within the same household regardless of their sex are comparable to a married couple.
h) Finland also allows for family reunification of single, adult siblings of a refugee if they previously lived together.
Belgian law states that all beneficiaries of subsidiary protection, irrespective of the duration of their residence permit, are exempted from the conditions regarding sufficient income, adequate housing and health insurance and are entitled to the same rights as those who are granted refugee status. This is a more favorable treatment in comparison with the normal procedure for family reunification and is a practice in keeping with the majority of the respondents. Normally, as long as a sponsor with refugee status applies for family reunification within a short period of time (this period varies from 3 months – 1 yr) from the date the sponsor received his/her refugee status, they are not required to provide adequate housing, health insurance etc.
On the question about to what extent interests of the family member concerned are weighed against the interests of the state, the UK responds that family reunion cases are considered on the basis of whether or not the applicant qualifies under the Immigration Rules only. Other respondents list: best interests of the child, national security, human rights, and the principal of unity of family, as important considerations.
Only Belgium, Latvia, the UK and Norway mention interviewing the child as a method of ascertaining information or shining light on the case. All respondents stipulate that the best interest of the child is an all-prevailing consideration. Estonia is typical: “It is taken into account that the best interests and the rights of the child is guaranteed. The family unity should be the first priority. In asylum proceedings involving an unaccompanied minor and upon reunification of families, the rights and interests of the minor shall be taken into consideration above all.” Finland states: “Before a decision is made concerning a child who is at least twelve years old, the child shall be heard unless such hearing is manifestly unnecessary. The child’s views shall be taken into account in accordance with the child’s age and level of development. A younger child may also be heard if the child is sufficiently mature to have his or her views taken into account. Matters concerning minors shall be processed with urgency.”
Note that Estonia states “If a family member has been issued a residence permit and the circumstance that constituted a basis for granting the residence permit has ceased to exist but the obligation to leave Estonia would be clearly too burdensome for him or her, he or she may be issued a residence permit to settle with his or her spouse or a residence permit to settle with a close relative under the circumstances and conditions provided for in the Aliens Act.”