Family reunification directive: concerns of transposition to Lithuanian legislation and implementation

Lyra Jakulevičienė, Laurynas Biekša

Abstract


The 3rd of October 2005 marks the deadline of transposition of the EU Council Directive No. 2003/86/EC (Family Reunification Directive) into national legislation. This Article is the third in a series of articles on transposition of the European Union Asylum Directives in Lithuania and remaining concerns. Even though this legal instrument is not an asylum law document per se, it carries important consequences for the legal status of refugees in the EU Member States. The article analyzes the transposition of the Family Reunification Directive in Lithuania, the impact of the Directive’s provisions on the development of Lithuanian asylum law and draws attention to remaining concerns in relation to implementation of this directive in Lithuania. The authors illustrate remaining concerns with practical and real life examples from Lithuania.
By the time of writing this Article, almost all of the norms of Family Reunification Directive have been transposed into Lithuanian legislation. Transposition has started in 2006 with the amendments to the Aliens’ Law of 2004 and has been almost completed by 2008 with the exception of a few provisions that either have not been transposed or have been transposed incorrectly. Overall, the directive had a significant impact on the national legislation, even though the family reunification procedure as such existed before the transposition, but was not considered sufficiently effective.
The transposition of Family Reunification Directive in Lithuania has resulted in introduction of new provisions related to increasing the minimum age for marriage; a possibility to issue a residence permit in particularly difficult circumstances; integration requirement; a possibility of reunification for parents with minor children in Lithuania. The impact that the directive had on Lithuanian legislation and the situation of refugees in the country could be measured in both positive and restrictive terms. Notably, the European study conducted in 25 Member States of the EU in 2007 mentioned Lithuania among the countries, where restrictive impacts prevailed over liberalisation. On the positive side, the most significant change was the acknowledgement of specific situation of refugees, as before that they had to comply with all requirements for reunification applicable to all other foreigners.
In addition, the right to family reunification was recognised for parents of unaccompanied minors. At the same time, among not very positive provisions that were introduced as a result of implementation of the directive were the two years residence requirement before the right to family reunification can be exercised; and the integration requirement when permanent residence permit is being issued.
Separate legal concerns with regard to implementation of directive‘s provisions in Lithuania still remain in respect of too broad definition of marriages of convenience; considerations of family relations and duration of residence while deciding on residence permit withdrawal and expulsion; absence of family reunification right for persons granted complementary protection; as well as incorrect transposition of the two years residence requirement before a foreigner may ask for family reunification, which has been widely debated at the national level.
The article may be useful for institutions dealing with requests for family reunification, as well as for the legislator with a view of ensuring full and proper transposition of the directive into national legislation and while improving the current legislation on aliens in Lithuania in order to ensure full respect to the family life of foreigners in the country.

Keywords


foreigners; refugees; legal status of aliens; aliens’ law; asylum; asylum directives; EU asylum law; respect for family life; family reunification; family reunion; Family Reunification Directive; transposition of directives

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"Societal studies" ISSN online 2029-2244 / ISSN print 2029-2236