Kinder der Welt

Family reunification - challenges for refugees and asylum seekers

Der Familiennachzug von Asylsuchenden wird zur Zeit heftig diskutiert. Lesen Sie dazu einen Kommentar aus dem Human Health and Rights Info.

Flight and exile divide millions of refugee families worldwide. The reality for many refugees is that they have lost track of their families or have had to leave them behind for economic or safety reasons.

The family however plays an essential role to help persons rebuild their lives and can provide critical support to adapt to new and challenging circumstances. Restoring families can also ease the sense of loss that accompanies many refugees who, in addition to family, have lost their country, network and life as they knew it.

Even so, family reunification may take time and that the rules for family reunification are strict. Some never get granted their application, while others have to wait for several years. This is straining both on those who came first and they are waiting to come by. Being separated is a serious trauma for many people, but strangely enough it is often not spoken about, and family reunification is often not put in the forefront, neither by therapists or policy makers.

This quote points clearly to a major point related to this;

”Armed conflict and war trauma are seen as the violence of others, whereas an
examination of prolonged separations highlights Western administrative violence” 

                                                                                                                     (Rousseau et al, 2001)

When families get back together there are of course great expectations involved. Fear, uncertainty and waiting have preceded the reunification. But the situation may also involve difficult or ambivalent feelings. Many years apart do something with both parties. Little contact during the waiting may have created distance or feelings of distrust. This is important to talk about, to explore and to deal with, as a way of creating the best possible reunification and hopefully reduce some of the stresses involved. And it is important to convey that other families are experiencing some of the same feelings in the beginning. Raising awareness about the situation in itself can thus be of great help and assistance in this process from the host society, and may be an important preventive initiative.

It might also be helpful to know more of the rights related to family reunification and what to expect. We have collected some useful publications related to family reunification.

Further reading
UNHCR guidelines on reunification of refugee families 
The note restates the position of the Office concerning the types of family reunification promoted by UNHCR, the categories of persons eligible for assistance, and the action to be taken by UNHCR Headquarters, by the Field Offices, and by refugees themselves to achieve the reunification of refugee families under various circumstances (UNHCR 1983).

Quelle: Newsletter Health and Human Rights Info

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