Do refugees have the right to be united with their families?

Many forcibly displaced persons flee as a family. However, many families also become separated, for example, because only one family member is forced to flee the family's country of origin or because the family members become separated on their journey to safety.

Many forcibly displaced persons flee as a family. However, many families also become separated, for example, because only one family member is forced to flee the family's country of origin or because the family members become separated on their journey to safety.

Several international conventions protect refugees' right to family life, such as the 1951 Refugee Convention and the European Convention on Human Rights. In order to protect refugees' family life, recognised refugees and their family members can apply for family reunification, which is a process that allows separated family members to be reunited with the refugee in the host country.

However, it is often only the immediate family (spouse and children under the age of 18) who can join a recognised refugee in the host country. This often creates problems for those who are not considered immediate family, such as adult children and their parents, adult siblings, and partners or spouses who have not been able to marry or who cannot prove that they are married.

In practice, many families encounter obstacles when they apply for family reunification. These obstacles include limited access to information regarding the process, difficulties documenting their family links, problems securing travel documents and visas for family members living in remote areas, and many more.