Asylum Regimes and Transnational Refugee Families in Germany and France: Family Reunification in Official Practice and Everyday Experience
Despite international agreements and joint European Union (EU) directives, the regulation of family reunification for protection seekers and their relatives differs across EU member states. In Germany, the right to family reunification exists only for those who have been granted refugee status as set down in the UN Convention (or asylum, in accordance with Article 16a of the Basic Law). It does not exist (or only to a restricted extent) in cases where subsidiary protection has been granted. In France, by contrast, the right to family reunification is conceded independently of protection status to all those whose applications for asylum have been recognised. Against this background, this research project investigates the extent to which political, legal and institutional regulations in Germany and France play a role in the (re-)establishment, maintenance or alteration of the family relationships of refugees. This leads to the next question: How are potentially divergent notions of the family as an institution accepted, negotiated, legally asserted or imposed via official decree in the dealings between refugees and the relevant authorities? In this way, the research project analyses the political, legal and institutional parameters and their implementation in the respective countries in explicit connection with the experiences and practices of protection seekers and their families. The research project is based on a qualitative investigation on three levels: (1) analysis of documents, (2) narrative interviews with men and women living in Germany or France with protection status and experience of application for family reunification, (3) case studies on family reunification procedures undertaken on the basis of a combination of methods. Accordingly, the analysis of institutional practices takes the form of a comparison of asylum regimes in the two countries, while the experiences and practices of protection seekers and the strategies they employ to maintain and re-establish family relationships are investigated by means of case comparisons. The essential points are: how legal provisions and prevalent family concepts influence the handling of protection provision and family reunification by the relevant authorities, and (on the refugee side) how, under changed conditions, family concepts and loyalties are maintained, re-established or transformed. The aim is to achieve empirically substantiated theoretical concepts a) on official practice and institutional influence in connection with family reunification for protection seekers, and b) on inner-family self-organisation with regard to the maintenance and re-establishment of family relationships in forced migration circumstances.