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Directive on Right to Family Reunification must not be reopened, say European Women’s Lobby and European Network of Migrant Women

[Brussels, 10 November 2011] At a public hearing today in the European Parliament, European women’s associations are expected to take a strong stand against any potential renegotiation of European legislation concerning family reunification, which they fear will be to the detriment of migrant women, and to call on the member states to improve access and integration measures.

‘Given the current political climate in the member states, we are deeply concerned that any reopening of this legislation might lead to even more restrictive qualification criteria’, said Cécile Gréboval, Secretary General of the European Women’s Lobby. ‘Such a development would not only be against the spirit of the original bill, which is meant to promote integration rather than to prevent migration, but furthermore risks discriminating against migrant women, who often have fewer financial resources and therefore, chances to qualify to bring their partners and children.’

The public hearing, entitled ‘Family Reunification Legislation in Europe: is it Discriminatory for Migrant Women?’, is co-organised by the European Women’s Lobby (EWL), the International Centre for Migration Policy Development (ICMPD) and the European Network of Migrant Women (ENoMW) ahead of the anticipated publication by the European Commission on 15 November of a new Green Paper on the Right to Family Reunification (Directive 2003/86/EC). The Green Paper is the first step of the review procedure for family reunification provisions in the EU.

Drawing on the expertise and experience of Members of the European Parliament, policy-makers, academics, NGOs and other key stakeholders, the hearing will consider the implications of current policies for the future integration perspectives of migrant women into society and the labour market.

While opposing renegotiation of current European legislation, women’s organisations are urging European and national policy-makers to use the opportunity of the upcoming evaluation to ensure respect for women’s rights and gender equality.

According to Nusha Yonkova from the European Network of Migrant Women, ‘This is a chance for governments to act to put an end to policies establishing dependency between family members. In particular, we demand autonomous residence status for migrant women experiencing domestic violence.’

Ms. Yonkova presented evidence from Ireland, which suggests that migrant women are inclined to endure domestic abuse longer than their native counterparts, as by leaving an abusive spouse they risk becoming undocumented, homeless and without means of support.
‘We cannot emphasise strongly enough the need for realistic, life-based and common sense reunification arrangements. These should not hinder but rather support migrant women in their efforts to ensure integration for their families’, concluded Ms. Yonkova.


This event, ‘Family Reunification Legislation in Europe: Is it Discriminatory for Migrant Women?’, is taking place from 15:00-18:30 on 10 November 2011. It will be held at the European Parliament in Brussels, in the Altiero Spinelli Building, Room ASP 1G3.

For more information, interviews, background or visual materials, please contact Leanda Barrington-Leach, EWL Communications and Media Officer, T: (+32) 2 210 04 27, barrington@womenlobby.org, and see www.womenlobby.org.

Note to editors:

The European Women’s Lobby (EWL) is the largest umbrella organisation of women’s associations in the European Union (EU), working to promote women’s rights and equality between women and men. EWL membership extends to organisations in all 27 EU Member States and three candidate countries, as well as to 20 European-wide organisations, representing a total of more than 2500 associations.

The International Centre for Migration Policy Development (ICMPD) was founded in 1993, upon the initiative of Austria and Switzerland. The organisation was created to serve as a support mechanism for informal consultations, and to provide expertise and efficient services in the newly emerging landscape of multilateral co-operation on migration and asylum issues.

The European Network of Migrant Women (ENoMW) is a European network of non-governmental organisations which represents the concerns, needs and interests of migrant women in 16 countries of the European Union.

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