According to PD 131/2006 transposing the Family Reunification Directive, as supplemented by PD 167/2008 and amended by PD 113/2013, only recognised refugees have the right to apply for reunification with family members who are third-country nationals, if they are in their home country or in another country outside the EU.
As per Article 13 PD 131/2006, “family members” include:
- Unmarried minor children;
- Unmarried adult children with serious health problems which render them incapable to support themselves;
- Parents, where the beneficiary solemnly declares that he or she has been living with them and taking care of them before leaving his or her country of origin, and that they no longer have other family members to care for and support them;
- Unmarried partners with whom the applicant has a stable relationship, which is proven mainly by the existence of a child or previous cohabitation, or any other appropriate means of proof.
If the refugee is an unaccompanied minor, he or she has the right to be reunited with his or her parents if he or she does not have any other adult relatives in Greece.
If a recognised refugee requests reunification with his or her spouse and/or dependent children, within 3 months from the deliverance of the decision granting him or her refugee status, the documents required with the application are:
- A recent family status certificate, birth certificate or other document officially translated into Greek and certified by a competent Greek authority, proving the family bond and/or the age of family members; and
- A certified copy of the travel documents of the family members.
However, if the applicant cannot provide these certificates, the authorities take into consideration other appropriate evidence.
On the other hand, if the refugee is an adult and the application refers to his or her parents and/or the application is not filed within 3 months from recognition, apart from the documents mentioned above, further documentation is needed:
- Full Social Security Certificate, i.e. certificate from a public social security institution, proving the applicant’s full social security coverage; or
- Tax declaration proving the applicant’s fixed, regular and adequate annual personal income, which is not provided by the Greek social welfare system, and which amounts to no less than the annual income of an unskilled worker – in practice about €8,500 – plus 20% for the spouse and 15% for each parent and child with which he or she wishes to be reunited;
- A certified contract for the purchase of a residence, or a residence lease contract attested by the tax office, or other certified document proving that the applicant has sufficient accommodation to meet the accommodation needs of his or her family.
The Asylum Service has interpreted this article of P.D. 131/2006 in a pro-refugee way. Either a full social security certificate or tax declaration proving sufficient income is required (and not both of them). On the contrary, the Aliens Police Directorate, i.e. in cases of recognized applicants under the “old procedure” (PD 114/2010) requires both certificates after the three months of the recognition. Another difference is that Asylum Service starts counting the 3-month period from the deliverance of the recognition decision. On the contrary, for the Aliens Police Directorate this deadline starts from the issuance of this decision that in most of these cases took place more than 3 months before the deliverance of the decision. In practice, the Aliens Police Directorate is demanding from refugees to apply for family reunification before they even know that they are recognized as refugees. In November 2019, GCR represented a refugee before the First Instance Administrative Court of Athens regarding this matter and the decision is pending.
The abovementioned additional documents are not required in case of an unaccompanied child recognised as refugee, applying for family reunification after the 3-month period after recognition.
Refugees who apply for family reunification face serious obstacles which render the effective exercise of the right to family reunification impossible in practice. Lengthy procedures, administrative obstacles as regards the issuance of visas even in cases where the application for family reunification has been accepted, the requirement of documents which are difficult to obtain by refugees, and lack of information on the possibility of family reunification, the three-month deadline and the available remedies are reported among others.
The Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights notes that these administrative obstacles result in a short number of beneficiaries of international protection being able to initiate a family reunification procedure. Moreover, the deficiencies in the family reunification procedure sometimes result in families trying to reunite through dangerous irregular routes.
In 2019, 266 applications for family reunification were submitted before the Asylum Service. The Asylum Service took 22 positive decisions, 2 partially positive decisions and 29 negative decisions. The Asylum Service due to the nature of this procedure can not specify the time needed for a decision to be issued.
In February 2018, in a case supported by GCR, the Administrative Court of Athens annulled a decision rejecting the application for family reunification submitted by a refugee before the Aliens Police Directorate of Attica. The Court found that the rejection of the application had been issued in breach of the relevant legal framework. In November 2019, the Aliens Police Directorate issued again a negative decision on the same case. Following this decision, in January 2019 GCR’s Legal Unit applied again for the annulment of this second negative Decision of the Aliens Police Directorate, before the Administrative Court of Athens. The Decision of the Court is still pending by March 2020.
A long awaited Joint Ministerial Decision was issued in August 2018 on the requirements regarding the issuance of visas for family members in the context of family reunification with refugees. Among other provisions, this Decision sets out a DNA test procedure in order to prove family links and foresees interviews of the family members by the competent Greek Consulate. The entire procedure is described in detail in the relevant handbook of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. According to the Ministerial Decision, the refugee must pay €120 per DNA sample but until today the electronic fee (e-paravolo) is not available and thus the payment of the fee is not possible. In addition, the DNA kit must be sent from the Forensic Science Department (Διεύθυνση Εγκληματολογικών Ερευνών) that will conduct the test, to the Greek Consulate in the diplomatic pouch of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. This is a procedure which can be proven lengthy.
In November 2019, GCR supported the first case on a DNA test Procedure in Greece. Although an initial positive decision for family reunification was issued, a DNA test has been ordered due to the doubts on the family link expressed by the competent Greek Consulate. In this case, there was no Greek Embassy in the country of origin and the family members had to present themselves at the Greek Embassy appointed as competent for the issuance of the visas, located in another country. However, during the DNA test procedure the visas of the refugee his family members for that country expired. Hence, they had to stay in that country for more than three months, waiting for the procedure to be finalized. In February 2020 the visas were finally issued.
In 2019, the applications for visa following a positive family reunification decision submitted before Greek Consulates, based on the abovementioned Joint Ministerial Decision, are as follows:
- Beirut, Lebanon received 21 applications for visas following a positive decision on family reunification and accepted 7 of them. 31 visas were issued in total. An interview has been conducted in 21 of the 37 cases processed since 2018. Delays occur mainly due to the difficulty in communication with the family members as well as the difficulty in free movement in Lebanon due to ongoing protests. In one case, the refugee family members waiting for the visas have fled to Sweden.
- Istanbul, Turkey received 5 family reunification cases. Since 2016, only in one case the visas were issued. It is unknown whether and when the family entered Greece. One other case was referred to the Greek Consulate in Ankara due to incompetence. In two cases only, interviews were conducted and one case is still pending. Delays occur mainly due to the difficulty in communication with the family members and the fact that a lot of them have moved since the day that application for family reunification was submitted.
- New Delhi, India There are no reunification cases so far.
- Tehran, Iran has issued visas for family reunification in less than 5 cases after conducting interviews. There is no information on whether the family members entered Greece and when. No DNA test was conducted.
- Amman, Jordan issued 5 visas for family reunification (one for a three-member family and one for a two-member family);
- Nairobi, Kenya received 6 applications for family reunification visas and accepted all of them, issuing the relevant visas. A personal interview was conducted in all cases. There was no need for conducting a DNA test in any of these cases.
- Cairo, Egypt received 11 cases of a positive decision on family reunification applications. An application for visa was filed in 5 cases, 3 of which were accepted and 2 of which rejected. In 4 cases, the refugee family members have not yet submitted applications for the issuance of visas, because they are still trying to collect the necessary documents. In one case the refugee’s family members could not reach the Consulate and in one case the refugee informed the Greek Consulate that he returned to his country of origin and no longer wishes to continue the process of family reunification. Delays occur due to the difficulty of the family members who reside in Palestine to move to Cairo in order to complete the procedure in person. No DNA test was conducted and no laissez-passez was issued.
- Ankara, Turkey received one application for family reunification visa, concerning the wife and daughter of a recognised refugee in Greece. The Consulate was informed about the positive decision on family reunification on 1 October 2019 and the visas were issued on 10 December 2019; In this case the authenticity of the submitted documents was easy to prove, since the documents were issued by Turkish Authorities, the refugee’s family members were Turkish citizens and the communication could be easily done in Turkish.
- Rabat, Morocco received two cases during 2019. One case is still pending. In one a DNA test was conducted in order to prove the family link.
- Baghdad, Iraq processed one family reunification case and issued the visas (for a mother and two minors). There is no information on whether the refugee family members entered Greece. One more case is pending.
- Islamabad Pakistan has not issued a visa for family reunification or conducted an interview or issued a special travel document (laissez-passez) because the refugee’s family members never appeared in the Consulate’s office.
 Article 14(1) PD 131/2006.
 Article 14(3) PD 131/2006, citing Article 14(1)(d).
 Article 14(3) PD 131/2006, citing Article 14(1)(d).
 See e.g. Pro Asyl and Refugee Support Aegean, Rights and effective protection exist only on paper: The precarious existence of beneficiaries of international protection in Greece, 30 June 2017, available at: http://bit.ly/2FkN0i9, 26-27.
 Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, Report of the Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe Dunja Mijatović following her visit to Greece from 25 to 29 June 2018, CommDH(2018)24, 6 November 2018, paras 68-69.
 Information provided by the Asylum Service, 17 February 2020.
 Information provided by the Asylum Service, 17 February 2020.
 JMD 47094/2018, Gov. Gazette B/3678/28.08.2018.
 Information provided by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 16 March 2020.