The Syrian revolution has displaced about 5 million Syrians from their homes since 2011, according to the United Nations High Commissioner of Refugees (UNHCR). But many Syrians feel that the refugee crisis not only separated them from their countries, but also from their families.
In a family reunification directive
issued by the UNHCR, it is agreed that "family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State." Forced displacement and separation due to persecution and war "can have devastating consequences on peoples' wellbeing and their ability to rebuild their lives."
As most refugees struggle with integration in foreign countries, being away from their parents, wives, children and siblings often makes it difficult for them to feel at home. In a UNHCR survey
conducted in January 2016, 41 percent of the Syrians interviewed stated family reunification as the reason of their choice for a destination country. About 20 percent of these households were headed by women, demonstrating "the desperate need for robust family reunification procedures."
In Germany itself, 21,376 Syrians arrived through family reunification visas between 2014 and 2015, as per the Global Government Forum, based on data provided by the German Federal Foreign Office.
"If you get asylum you only have a timeslot of three months to apply for family reunion," said Joachim Tröstler, founder of Herberge für Menschen auf der Flucht, a Hamburg-based non-profit organization that helps Syrian refugees. "Even if you qualify for that program, it takes normally more than one and a half years to get your family taken here."