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Germany 'ignoring' refugee reunification ruling

Jane Mcintosh
October 24, 2018

Media reports have accused Germany of disregarding a ruling from the EU's top court on the rights of unaccompanied minors to be joined by their families. The key point is the minor's age during the asylum process.

Unaccompanied minors at a hostel in Germany
Image: picture alliance/dpa/B. Settnik

In mid-April, the European Union's supreme court in matters of EU law ruled that unaccompanied minors could bring in their families, even if they had come of age during the asylum process.

The European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled that the decisive factor was the date when the application for asylum had been made — and not how long it took authorities to process it.

German law dictates that a refugee must still be a minor when the parents join him or her.

A report in German daily Süddeutsche Zeitung indicated that the German Foreign Ministry, which issues visas, was not correctly implementing the law.

In early September, the Red Cross and the UN refugee agency UNHCR held a closed-doors conference on family reunification. At the event, a Foreign Ministry spokesperson said Germany would not implement the ECJ ruling. (Read the protocol here - in German).

Human rights organization Pro Asyl told the newspaper it believed a considerable number of refugees had been unfairly denied their rights to bring their families into Germany. It called on the government to apply the ECJ ruling.

Read more: Refugee family reunification in Germany — what you need to know

Refugee family reunification

Minors from Afghanistan, Eritrea

According to a statement from Eurostat the EU's statistical office in May, over 31,000 unaccompanied minors were among asylum seekers registered in the EU in 2017. Nearly 90 percent of them were males. As a group they accounted for 15 percent of all asylum applicants and 9,085 applied for asylum in Germany. 

The numbers of unaccompanied minors applying for asylum in th EU have been falling since the peak of 95,000 registrations in 2015 and 63,200 in 2016.

Read more: Hoping for family reunification: 'I need my wife to start again'

According to Eurostat, most unaccompanied minors in 2017 were registered in Italy, followed by the 9,100 who applied for asylum in Germany. The largest group, about 17 percent, had come from Afghanistan. The second largest group had come from Eritrea, 1,500 of whom applied for asylum in Germany. 

Eurostat included the definition of the individuals as: "An asylum applicant considered to be an unaccompanied minor is a minor (aged less than 18) who arrives on the territory of the Member States unaccompanied by an adult responsible for him or her whether by law or by the practice of the Member State concerned."

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