Through the delegation of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in Libya, the GRC Tracing Service received the urgent request of a Palestinian family from Syria: The mother with four children aged between 11 and 20 years lived under very difficult conditions in a refugee camp in Tripoli/Libya. The husband and father had arrived in Germany as a refugee, but his health was so impaired that he could not take care of family reunification himself.
The GRC Tracing Service contacted the person concerned: He had fled Libya with his eldest son in 2014 across the Mediterranean Sea and was immediately recognised as a refugee in Germany. Since 2015 he has tried to bring over the rest of the family; the son was already studying here in the meantime. Contact with the immigration authority in charge confirmed that the legal requirements for family reunification had been met in full and that the person concerned had regularly presented his request. Nevertheless, the family had to face seemingly insurmountable hurdles:
The relatives in Libya no longer had valid passports; in addition, the application for family reunification could not be filed there, but only with the nearest German diplomatic mission abroad: In Tunis. Unlike other frequented German missions abroad, however, they do not issue appointment invitations, which must be presented as a reason for entry. There was no passage to Tunisia without an entry visa.
Thanks to the support of the ICRC delegation on site, things seemed to work out. But it took several nerve-wracking attempts until the mother and children actually reached the German embassy in Tunisia to apply for family reunification. For example, family members were prevented from taking booked flights. At the end of 2017, the family was finally able to make their application at the mission then travelled back to Libya with the help of the ICRC to wait for the outcome of the application; the Tunisian authorities do not permit a longer stay in Tunisia, for example to wait for the issuance of visas.
But the story still didn't have a happy ending: The German Embassy stated that visas would be issued for the mother and three of the children. The fourth child, who had been a minor at the time of the father's application, but who was now of age, could not enter the country. This child of the family suffers from epilepsy and is urgently dependent on medication and family support. A difficult dilemma.
In order to obtain the necessary qualified certificates from Libya or to undergo an examination in a clinic in Tunis, the young man would have had to travel to Tunisia again; due to his illness again with his mother, who in turn would not have been able to leave the other children behind in Libya. The situation seemed hopeless to the family.
After a new certificate had been submitted from Libya, the German Embassy declared that the son, who was now of age, was allowed to enter the country with his family if his livelihood and housing were secured in Germany. The father could not meet these requirements due to his personal impairment. The brother living in Germany was willing to give up his studies in order to contribute to the financing. What next?
The competent immigration authority took a positive view of the entry of the sick, now adult child together with the rest of the family and pointed out that the necessary application had been filed at a time when the child was still a minor, i.e. in good time, and that therefore no further legal requirements applied.
During this long period, father and son in Germany feared that their wife and mother would no longer be able to withstand the conditions in Libya and the catastrophic conditions in the refugee camp, and in turn would flee with the children across the Mediterranean.
Shortly thereafter, the German Embassy in Tunis gave the good news that the visas for all family members would be issued. However, the family must provide proof of health insurance and language certificates for the adults. Again incomprehension and inquiries of the GRC Tracing Service: There is no legal obligation to provide language certificates and health insurance for family reunification to recognised refugees. Fortunately, this error cleared up quickly, so that the visas were finally ready to be picked up.
Once again there was a delay in leaving Libya and entering Tunisia, once again the ICRC came to the aid of the family. Almost 5 years after the separation, mother and children, wife and siblings finally arrive in Germany. The family lies happily in each other's arms but remains emotionally deeply marked by the exhausting time of their separation and the burdening uncertainty about their common destiny.