New issue paper co-authored by Cathryn Costello urges lifting of obstacles to refugee reunification

20 June, 2017

A new issue paper published by the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights urges all Council of Europe member states to lift the many obstacles to reunification of refugee families.

The paper was prepared by Professor Cathryn Costello of the Refugee Studies Centre, Professor Kees Groenendijk of Radboud University Nijmegen and Dr Louise Halleskov Storgaard of Aarhus University.

It highlights the European and international standards that govern this field, refers to concrete national cases where restrictive measures have been adopted, and sets forth 36 recommendations to help member states adopt laws and policies that uphold refugees’ right to reunite with their families in host countries.

These recommendations for states include:

  • Ensure that family reunification procedures are flexible, prompt, effective, and happen in a reasonable time
  • Ensure that the definition of family members eligible for reunification is appropriately broad
  • Pay particular attention to children’s needs
  • Avoid onerous evidential requirements, prohibitive financial costs and intrusive medical tests
  • Take into account the practical obstacles refugees and their families face in reunification procedures, including with regards to obtaining and presenting the necessary documentation.

The Council of Europe is the continent's leading human rights organisation. It advocates freedom of expression and of the media, freedom of assembly, equality, and the protection of minorities. It promotes human rights and monitors member states' progress in these areas, making recommendations through independent expert monitoring bodies.

Read the paper.


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