Family life is a right for migrants too
The European Commission has launched a public debate on the right to family reunification of third-country nationals living in the EU. Depending on the outcome of the consultation, the Commission will decide whether any policy follow-up is necessary – such as setting up clear guidelines, modifying the current rules or leaving the legislation as it is.
According to data available, in the early 2000s, family migration seemed to make up more than 50% of the total legal immigration. Today, this share has fallen to about one third of all immigration to the EU. The share is even smaller when singling out the migrants targeted by the family reunification Directive (i.e. only third-country nationals joining non-EU citizens): 21% of the overall permits are released to this category of migrants, comprising roughly 500.000 people in 2010. During this year, Italy issued the most family related permits for third county nationals joining non-EU citizens (160,200), followed by the UK (103,187) and Spain (89,905).
Non-EU citizens who are family members of legally residing third-country nationals have the right to enter and reside in the EU if the sponsor has resided "for one year or more" with "reasonable prospects of obtaining the right of permanent residence". Member States may require the fulfilment of other conditions such as sufficient resources, adequate accommodation and sickness insurance, as well as "integration measures".
The consultation focuses on a number of questions arising from the application of the family reunification Directive, including:
•To whom the directive should apply: How to best define the migrants who benefit from the EU rules; whether the right to family reunification should be extended to other family members, outside than the core family; the problems experienced with forced marriages;
•The conditions for family reunification: Whether the integration measures that Member States are allowed to introduce need to be further specified; whether safeguards should be foreseen to ensure that such measures really foster integration and are not used as barriers to family reunification;
•Ways of tackling possible fraud and marriages of convenience;
•The functioning of certain obligations for Member States, such as taking the best interest of children into account when examining an application.
The Commission intends to organise a public hearing after it has received written contributions.