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Realising the Right to Family Reunification of Refugees in Europe

This issue paper examines family reunification for refugees as a pressing human rights issue. Without it, refugees are denied their right to respect for family life, have vastly diminished integration prospects and endure great additional unnecessary suffering, as do their family members. The Commissioner for Human Rights calls on all Council of Europe member states to uphold their human rights obligations and ensure the practical effectiveness of the right to family reunification for refugees and other international protection beneficiaries. To do so, states should (re-)examine their laws, policies and practices relating to family reunification for refugees. This issue paper contains 36 recommendations to that end.

The topics covered in each of the five chapters include:

  • The importance of this issue from a human rights and refugee integration perspective; 
  • The pertinent international human rights standards applicable in Europe under various global instruments; 
  • An overview of the major case law of the European Court of Human Rights (the Court) on this topic;
  • A brief account of the key issues pertaining to EU law on family reunification for refugees; and
  • An examination of the restrictive practice in some Council of Europe states, which puts the human rights of refugees and their children at risk.  

The concluding observations summarise the Commissioner’s recommendations to Council of Europe member states, placing particular emphasis on those concerning the practical effectiveness of the right to family reunification for refugees.

Published 2018-12-31