Panel Meeting on Family Reunification
The representatives of the EU Member States, Eastern Partnership countries, academia and international organizations gathered in Tbilisi to compare their policies, procedures and approaches to family reunification. The two-day meeting of the Eastern Partnership Panel on Migration and Asylum took place on 26-27 November 2015 and was co-hosted by Georgia and the Czech Republic.
Family reunification is a subject which is often left out of attention, but today it appears to be highly relevant considering current European migration crisis. Many asylum seekers receive refugee status and, thus, obtain a right for reunification with their relatives. It is a responsibility of every state to preserve the right balance between securing a right to reunite with the family and immigration control.
The experts dealing with family reunification at different levels, such as case workers, researchers or policy makers, had a lively discussion on the approaches applied by states and practices used on daily basis.
Ms. Zvezda Vankova from the Migration Policy Group and Ms. Helen Wray from the Middlesex University have contextualized the concept of family reunification, placing it within main international legal context and policy acts and explaining EU approach to the issue. UNHCR underlined its very liberal attitude to family reunification, while UNICEF focused on the importance of the support services, inter alia for children.
Variety of national practice was shared throughout the meeting. Procedural aspects of family reunification were covered in presentations of the participants from Georgia, Lithuania, and Moldova. Sweden highlighted recent changes in the national legislation tightening family reunification regulations. An interesting practical angle of family reunification was presented by Ms. Barbara Weglin, practicing lawyer from the Netherlands. Provoking case studies sparked a dynamic debate on the need for pragmatic balance between the legal requirements for the family reunification (for example: income, language) and the need of the families that want to reunite in the Netherlands.
Finally, the draft work programme of the Panel for 2016 was presented by the participating countries and Panel members.