Family Reunification

Many of the asylum seekers arriving on Lesvos have family members in other European countries who they wish to be reunited with. These family members are often able to provide support, care and housing. The legal process of family reunification is incredibly complicated and can take months or years, during which time, applicants are forced to remain in the horrifying conditions of the camps. Individuals applying for family reunification without legal representation have difficulties navigating the process, experience administrative barriers, and have a lower chance of their right to reunification being recognised, than those receiving legal guidance.1

1In 2020, less than a third of the Take-Charge requests (the process of reassigning an individual’s asylum claim from one state to another in order to allow for family reunification) sent by the Greek authorities received an acceptance in contrast to the 73% success rate of cases represented by Fenix in 2020. Source: Oxfam, Greek Council for Refugees [February 2021], Tipping the Scales: The role of responsibility- and solidarity-sharing in the situation of the Greek islands [Accessed on 24/2/2021], p 7.

Our family reunification team assists our clients with their applications to be reunited with family members in other European Union countries under the Dublin III Regulation. Potential applicants are screened and identified before a presentation of their claim is submitted to the Greek Dublin Unit. Once a case is taken by our team, our mental health and protection teams support the client with gathering of evidence for the family reunification claim, including DNA, medical and psychological documentation, family trees, and family photographs. If an applicant receives a rejection, we submit a re-examination request. In cases where a final rejection is notified, the team often refers and collaborates with legal organisations throughout Europe to assist in the litigation of the case in national court. When a case is accepted, the family reunification team follows up with the progress of the transfer, supports the clients with translators to fill in the travel paperwork, ensures they can access Covid testing and finally accompanies the clients to the airport.

Due to the pandemic, in 2021 many cases that had received authorisation to be transferred in a 6 month period were stuck in Greece due to travel restrictions, and this time period elapsed. In these cases we carried out advocacy at the European and national level to ensure the reunification, worked with press outlets to raise awareness and collaborated with other organizations for litigation.