Demonstration on family reunification from Eritrea: increase the pressure

Eritrean refugees wait years in Germany for their families to be allowed to come. That’s why they want to demonstrate on Saturday.

Demonstration for family reunification from Eritrea in June in Berlin Foto: Florian Boillot

BERLIN taz | For the second time within a few months, Eritrean refugees want to demonstrate on Saturday in Berlin’s government district for their right to family reunification. After the first demonstration in July with more than 1,000 participants, the Federal Foreign Office had neither answered the demonstrators’ letter nor changed its practice, says one of those affected, Mehari Tsegay of the taz. The motto of the demo at the time was “I miss my family”.

Tsegay has lived in Germany since 2014 and has been waiting for his wife and two children who are in Ethiopia ever since. He says, “We have to increase the pressure. The unrest in Ethiopia, where many families are waiting, has worsened in recent months. Our families are badly affected and had to leave their homes. “

According to the initiators, 1,200 refugees from Eritrea are currently waiting for their families to join them. The escape from the Horn of Africa to Europe via the Sahara, the civil war state of Libya and the Mediterranean Sea is so dangerous that often only men feel comfortable going. Meanwhile, the women and children wait in Ethiopia or Sudan, i.e. in politically and economically unstable countries. According to official statistics, a good 80 percent of the Eritrean refugees living in Germany are men. If they are granted asylum – the rule given the catastrophic situation in Eritrea – they have the right to family reunification.

In practice it looks different. According to official information from the federal government and international organizations, one first waits six to twelve months for registration with the UN refugee agency UNHCR in Eritrea’s neighboring countries and then another 12 months for an appointment at the German embassy in order to even be able to apply for family reunification. During this time, their husbands in Germany are responsible for the livelihood of the women and children, who often run into high debts. Because they are poorly trained and often only precariously employed here.

Eritrea takes a lot of money for official documents

“Then many more months pass before the applications are processed,” says the call for the demonstration. “Family reunification often fails because of the unreasonable and unfulfillable demands that the German embassies place on the evidence of family ties and the identity of relatives”.

This is due to the fact that in Eritrea births and weddings are usually not registered by the state but only by the church. Applicants can only submit church birth and marriage certificates. But the Foreign Office does not recognize this because the consular officers are not qualified to do so, as the federal government announced in its response to a parliamentary question from the left.

If you want to apply for a certificate for a marriage or a birth from abroad at a later date from the Eritrean state, you have to pay two percent of your income as a so-called “disaspor tax” for the time after leaving Eritrea. Without this tax there are no documents. Refugees call it unreasonable to also finance their persecuting state. They demand that the German Foreign Office should move and also recognize non-state documents. In addition, the refugees believe that applications for family reunification should be given priority.

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