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Many more family members join refugees in Germany

The number of family members from non-EU countries who have moved to Germany to join their partner or relative has risen by roughly 50 percent in the past year. The Foreign Ministry released the figures on Thursday.

Nearly 105,000 visas were granted to foreigners because they had close family members living in Germany in 2016. In 2015, that figure was roughly half at 70,000.

The numbers do not just encompass asylum seekers and refugees, but all foreigners, including people who themselves do not have EU-citizenship but are married or related to a German. However, a significant number of family reunification visas were issued to relatives of people who sought asylum in Germany.

"For the year 2016, roughly 73,000 visas were granted to ensure family reunification for people from Syria or Iraq who have been granted asylum or subsidiary protection," the Foreign Ministry told the newspaper "Die Welt". This is three times as many as in the previous year, when 24,000 such visas were issued.

While the numbers are on the rise, they are far below what many Germans expected. In 2016, Christian von Stetten, a member of the German parliament for Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative CDU party, said he expected 1.1 million people to join family members who had been granted asylum.

The German government passed a new asylum bill in February 2016 that has made family reunification more difficult for asylum seekers. Those who have only been granted "subsidiary protection" rather than full asylum have to wait two years until they can apply for their family members to join them.

mb/rt (AFP, KNA)

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