The Malta Independent 2 March 2021, Tuesday

Migrants’ Right to family life

Malta Independent Friday, 25 November 2011, 00:00 Last update: about 8 years ago

On 15 November, the European Commission launched a public consultation on how EU member states deal with problems raised by immigrants’ right to family reunification. The consultation prepares for the planned revision of Directive 2003/86/EC on the right to family reunification with legislative proposals expected in 2013

Under the 2007 Family Reunification Regulations, which transpose Directive 2003/86/EC into Maltese law, as a general principle family reunification of a third country national living in Malta may be granted only after two years of stay within the country. The third country national must hold a residence permit valid for at least one year and have reasonable prospects of obtaining a right of permanent residence. Family members are understood as the spouse (who must be at least 21 years of age), and unmarried minor children including adopted children.

When submitting an application for the reunification of the family members of a third country national residing in Malta, the resident must provide documents attesting the family relationship; proof of sufficient accommodation; proof of medical insurance covering the person and his/her family members; and proof of stable and regular financial means. Third country nationals and their family members making such a request may be required to attend and complete courses in the Maltese language. In principle, family members are entitled to access employment and self-employment under the same conditions as the third country national. However, full access without a labour market test is generally granted after 12 months. The residence permit granted to family members is valid for one year or for the same duration as that of the residence permit holder.

Under the local regulations, irregular refugees who are granted subsidiary protection are excluded from the opportunity to be reunited with their immediate families that is given to refugees with asylum status. According to a report compiled last March by Thomas Hammber, Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe, the Maltese system leaves migrants at serious risk of becoming poor and being socially excluded. The Commissioner believes that in order to favour the gradual development of migrants’ self-reliance and integration into society, the system which currently makes financial support for migrants dependent on residence in the open centres should be discontinued. Also, financial support and social assistance should be available to all beneficiaries of international protection.

A comparative study carried out in 2006 on the transposition and implementation of Directive 2003/86/EC reveals the lack of debate and civil society consultation in most member states. Moreover, the 2008 European Commission report on the implementation of the Directive identified several national implementation problems and shortcomings of the Directive. These included issues of incorrect transposition, in particular of the provisions on visa facilitation, granting autonomous residence permits, legal redress and more favourable provisions for the family reunification of refugees; and the fact that the Directive itself leaves member states too much discretion when applying some of its optional provisions in particular as regards the possible waiting period, the income requirement and the possible integration measures.

Thus the Commission is launching this Green Paper to initiate a public debate on family reunification highlighting certain issues within the remit of the Directive. Its main focus is the objective of the Directive, namely to determine the conditions for the exercise of the right to family reunification and to facilitate the integration of third country nationals meeting the conditions in the given member state.

All stakeholders are invited to reply to the various questions of the Green Paper on how to have more effective rules on family reunification at EU level and to provide available factual information and data on the application of the Directive to underpin the qualitative assessment provided. 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. Stakeholders and the general public are invited to have their say at: consulting_public/consulting_0023_en.htm.

Brenda Azzopardi is Executive

(EU Policy & Legislation), Meusac

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