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Amnesty, Red Cross object to tighter rules for family reunion

Published torsdag 24 december 2015 kl 10.56
"Only gives the right to reunite in theory"
(2:16 min)
Leif R Jansson / TT
Madelaine Seidlitz, a legal counsellor at Amnesty International's Swedish branch. Photo: Leif R Jansson / TT.

The Swedish Red Cross and the Swedish branch of the human rights organization Amnesty International worry that a government proposal that would give refugees a maximum of three months to apply for family reunion will mean that many will miss the chance, reports Swedish Radio News. 

The government wants to tighten the current rules for family reunion so that only people who have been granted refugee status will be eligible to bring their family members here. The proposed changes also include a new deadline, which would force refugees to file the application within three months of getting their residency permit.

However, it is not the person in Sweden who needs to file the application, but the family members abroad, which means that they will somehow need to get in touch with one another to get the application process started, and both the Red Cross and Amnesty argue that this could take much more than just three months.

"People are often torn apart by war and conflict and rarely have regular contact. They sometimes don't even know where in the world their relatives are at the time, so for them to find them to get this process started in just three months sounds like a utopia," says Johanna Eriksson Ahlén, an expert on migrant rights at the Swedish Red Cross.

If the law is passed the changes would come into effect in April next year. Madeleine Seidlitz, a legal counsellor at the Swedish branch of Amnesty International, worry that many refugees will effectively lose the right to reunite with their family members because they will not be able to submit their applications on time.

"Your family members could be in a prison somewhere or in hiding. A million things can potentially prevent refugees from getting in touch with their families," Seidlitz says.

The Minister for Migration, Morgan Johansson, defends the tighter rules and tells Swedish Radio News that they are in line with EU law.

"I think that most will be able to get in touch with their family members within three months," Johansson says, adding that it is not the government's ambition to have fewer refugees reunite with their families.

"No, this is simply a temporary measure that we will need to have in place for a few years to bring down the number of refugees coming to Sweden," he says.

Our journalism is based on credibility and impartiality. Swedish Radio is independent and not affiliated to any political, religious, financial, public or private interests.
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