Family reunification & the status of resettled refugees


On the International Day of the Family, this workshop will explore the different legal statuses with which resettled refugees arrive in Europe, and the different arrangements that allow for family reunification in the European Union. It will explore the impact of these differing contexts for resettled refugees and discuss the role of international and civil society organizations addressing resettled refugees needs when affected by these issues.


Ms Winnblad for UNHCR, underlined that all resettled refugees do not have a right to family reunification and this may be problematic where the whole family could not be submitted or was not accepted together. UNHCR considers all dependent family members (nuclear family as well as dependents due to psychological, physical, economic, and/or emotional bonds) should be submitted together in one resettlement file. In some cases additional resettlement referral is necessary using the family reunification criteria.

The British Red Cross (BRC) presented the main findings of their recent study on family reunion needs in the UK:

  • Family is important for the societal wellbeing and can affect integration;
  • Access to accurate information, affordable legal advice and financial assistance (refugees have to pay for travel documents and travel) are needed;
  • Proving relationships is a particular obstacle to family reunion;
  • UAMs do not have a right to family reunion in the UK;
  • Better collaboration is needed with legal services for better information on family reunion;
  • Problem of making the application in the country where the family is present (ex of Finland which requires that family is legally present in the country of residence to start an application, however some embassies cannot process family reunification files and refugees are required to travel to another country).

Next steps for the BRC will be to maintain its travel assistance programme, although this may be a problem where no external funding is available, and funding legal support including for family reunification.

During the discussion, the problems of fees, identification of family members, and use of DNA testing were discussed. The case of Germany was underlined where resettled refugees have no family reunification rights although they may get preferred treatment if they already have family members present in Germany. It was also underlined that resettlement should not be used to solve cases which should be addressed under family reunification.


Status of resettled refugees and family reunification - Emilie Wiinblad Mathez, UNHCR [download]

Refugee Family Reunion - Understanding Support Needs in the UK, British Red Cross [download]