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German Cabinet approves new rules on migrant reunions

May 9, 2018
German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer arrives for a press conference where he presents the 2017 German crime statistic in Berlin Tuesday, May 8, 2018. (Kay Nietfeld/dpa via AP)
German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer arrives for a press conference where he presents the 2017 German crime statistic in Berlin Tuesday, May 8, 2018. (Kay Nietfeld/dpa via AP)

BERLIN (AP) — Asylum-seekers who are granted only limited protection in Germany will be able to apply for relatives to join them, more than two years after such reunions were suspended, under new rules approved Wednesday by the Cabinet.

Under the rules set to take effect Aug. 1, up to 1,000 close relatives per month will be granted visas to join migrants granted “subsidiary protection,” which falls short of full asylum. Many people fleeing Syria’s civil war have been given that status.

The government said that migrants won’t get the automatic right to be joined by close relatives — spouses, children under 18, or the parents of migrants under 18 — but authorities will make case-by-case decisions on humanitarian grounds.

People who married after fleeing their homeland won’t be able to seek spouses’ admission. That also goes for migrants who have committed serious crimes or who are deemed by German authorities to pose a risk of extremist violence.

There will be an exception for people who can convincingly prove to authorities that they have given up their extremist and violent beliefs, which has drawn criticism from within Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative bloc. Interior Minister Horst Seehofer said he personally would have to decide on any such cases.

“All in all, this bill ensures a sensible balance between people’s interest in bringing families together ... and the integration capacity of the reception system,” Seehofer told reporters.

Germany saw more than a million asylum-seekers from the Middle East and elsewhere arrive in 2015 and 2016. Arrival numbers have dropped sharply since then and the latest figures, released Wednesday, show that just under 11,000 asylum-seekers arrived in Germany in April.

In early 2016, with large numbers of migrants still trekking across the Balkans, Merkel’s government decided that people granted the lesser protection status, which means that they aren’t deemed to face “immediate personal persecution,” wouldn’t be allowed to bring relatives to join them for two years.

Family reunions were a hard-fought issue in negotiations earlier this year to form a new governing coalition.

Merkel’s bloc — particularly Seehofer’s Bavaria-only Christian Social Union party, which faces a state election in October — backed a restrictive approach. Its center-left coalition partners, the Social Democrats, called for a more generous line.

The new rules will require parliamentary approval.

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