4 April 2014

The European Commission adopted yesterday a Communication to provide guidance to Member States on how to apply the Directive 2003/86/EC on the right to family reunification.

The Communication adresses a number of issues that were raised by civil society organisations in their contribution to the Commission’s Green Paper, such as the lack of information on and assistance in the family reunification procedure, the cost of family reunification processes, the administrative hurdles (evidence requirements, DNA testing, limited access to embassies, visa requirements, etc), the duration of procedures (often up to 2 to 3 years), and the restrictive interpretation of dependency.

The European Commission reaffirms the obligation for Member States not to use their margin of appreciation in a manner that can undermine the objective of the Directive, which is to promote family reunification, and its effectiveness. The availability of information, the best interests of the child, individual assessments and the right to legal challenge are overall principles Member States cannot derogate from.

Regarding the situation for refugees, the Commission recalls that the lack of evidentiary documents cannot be the sole reason for rejecting an application, and that Member States are obligated to take into account other evidence to establish family links, such as written or oral statements and interviews with family members. The Commission considers that Member States should allow sponsors to introduce an application for family reunification in the territory of the Member State in order to guarantee the effectiveness of the right to family reunification. Finally, the Commission encourages Member States to apply the same rules for beneficiaries of subsidiary protection.

These guidelines follow the decision taken in 2012 based on a public consultation not to review the Directive, but instead to fully implement the existing rules, to launch infringement procedures where necessary, and to produce guidelines for Member States on specific issues.

This article originally appeared in the ECRE Weekly Bulletin of 04 April 2014
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