When the number of asylum seekers arriving in Europe surged in 2015 and 2016, it was only a matter of time before the issue of family reunification would arise. After all, many asylum seekers were married men, hoping to arrange for their spouse and children to join them. European countries that were still struggling to accommodate the extraordinary numbers of asylum seekers faced a dilemma: if newly recognised refugees were given the same right to family reunification as before, this would mean even higher numbers; if they were not given this right, families’ precarious situations would be prolonged and the prospects for integration might be undermined.
How damaging is separation from the family for integration?
While migration researchers could estimate how many more migrants would arrive due to family reunification, it became apparent that next to nothing was known about the role of family reunification for integration. The available studies were based on a small number of interviews and highlighted the stress endured by migrants who could not yet reunite with their families (see here for an example). However, no research was available on how the absence of the family might affect migrants’ integration outcomes in the long term, if at all. Precisely this question had in fact been identified as a gap in knowledge.