Caritas Europa Migration Commission
4, Rue de Pascale, B-1000 Bruxelles
CCME Churches' Commission for Migrants in Europe
174, Rue Joseph II, B-1000 Bruxelles
COMECE Commission of the Bishops' Conferences of the European Community
- Working group on Migration -
42, Rue Stévin, B-1000 Bruxelles
ICMC International Catholic Migration Commission
4, Rue De Pascale, B-1040 Bruxelles
00/065Mr. Antonio Lencastre Bernardo
Brussels, 08 May 2000
EU Commission Proposal for a Council Directive on the right to family reunification [COM (1999) 638 final]
Dear Mr. Lencastre Bernardo,
As you may know, church organisations working on issues of migration and asylum throughout Europe, particularly the Churches' Commission for Migrants in Europe CCME, the Working Group on Migration of the COMECE Secretariat and the International Catholic Migration Commission ICMC, take considerable interest in the formulation of the Council Directive on the right to family reunification. After consultation with our members, Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant churches and church organisations in Europe, we issued a position paper on the EU Commission's proposal, which you find attached (annex I).
We regard the formulation of this directive as of utmost importance, as we would like to see every person's right to live in and with his or her family guaranteed. The European Union has confirmed the right to family life as it has been laid down in the European Convention on Human Rights (1951). The constitutions of the EU member states underline this fundamental right and the churches continuously refer to this. The new directive needs to fulfil these commitments.
We are aware, that there is discussion whether family reunion should be formulated as a right. We would like to underline the churches' support for this concept. While we understand the difficulties in defining family, we hope that you will be able to agree to a definition which accommodates the various concepts in the member states and which allows for families to exercise their right and enables them to care for each other.
We are highly concerned that this right may not be extended to the most vulnerable groups in the European societies, the refugees. We deeply appreciated the approach in the Commission's proposal to draft a directive that covers all residents on EU territory including refugees. As you can see from the UNHCR position paper on this proposal (annex II) as well as of the European Council on Refugees and Exiles (annex III), this concept is shared by other organisations, too. While we understand some of the concerns governments and authorities may have, as this could place an additional financial burden on them, we would like to underline, that this burden could be reduced if refugees and family members were allowed to take up employment as is foreseen in the Commissions proposal. The easing of pressure on the labour market in most EU member states may help to grant this right more easily in the coming years.
We would regard the criteria of a residence permit of one year as sufficient to establish the right to family reunion. To grant or deny the right on other terms may cause inequalities that are difficult to comprehend on the one hand, and require additional administrative measures on the other. If a person is granted a residence permit for one year or more, family life is a very important aspect of integration into the society of the member state. If a person were granted a residence permit on humanitarian grounds, we would hope that the person would not be separated from his or her family due to his or her status of residence. We would find it difficult to make distinctions on the status of the resident being either a refugee of various category, employee, student etc.
We sincerely hope that the concept and spirit of the Commission's proposal could be kept in the further work on this important directive.
With kind regards,
On behalf of the Migration Commission of Caritas Europa, CCME, Working Group on Migration of COMECE and ICMC
CCME General Secretary
cc: Mrs. Ventura, Delegation of Portugal to the EU
Mr. Stephen Ellis, EU Council