By Oula Mahfouz and Ute Kaiser
The Syrian grandparents in Turkey had one fervent wish: to see their children and grandchildren living in Germany and finally take them into their arms. The 71-year-old grandfather and the 63-year-old grandmother have only known their school-age grandchildren from photos and video calls. The family has been separated since they fled Syria – for six years now.
All family members suffer from separation pain, says Hanin (name changed), the daughter who lives in Tübingen. Suddenly, “a light at the end of the tunnel” appeared for them. The family hoped for a reunion in Germany. The eldest brother, a civil engineer, applied for a visit visa limited to 90 days. Hoping, they all waited for weeks for the decision of the German embassy in Istanbul. Hanin clung to the hope that her parents’ wish would be granted. The potential hostess began to plan and prepare for the father and mother’s visit.
The letter from the embassy was “like a punch in the stomach” for the four siblings living in Germany. The embassy wrote: “There are reasonable doubts about the reliability of your intention to leave the territory of the member state before the visa expires.” Thus the application for a Schengen visa was rejected. Although all conditions were fulfilled. Apparently it did not even count in the decision that a daughter lives with her parents in Turkey and that this is a reason for her to return there. The rejection from the embassy in Istanbul plunged the daughter in Tübingen into deep despair. The no took away almost all her energy and joy of life.
This is not only the case for this family in the Tübingen district. This is shown by a non-representative survey among refugees. tünews wanted to know exactly. We asked the Foreign Office in Berlin how many visit visas for Germany refugees have applied for and how many visa applications have been rejected. The Foreign Office cannot answer this question. The reason given by the press office: “Since it is irrelevant for the processing of visit visa applications whom the applicant wishes to visit, no further data on the host is collected or statistically recorded in addition to the address data in Germany.” Therefore, the numerous visa statistics published by the Foreign Office say nothing about this particular issue.
The human rights organisation Pro Asyl does not have any figures either. But the topic of visit visas “comes up frequently in counselling talks”, says Peter von Auer. The lawyer is the legal policy advisor of Pro Asyl. Refusing a visa on the grounds of alleged unwillingness to return is “common practice” – even when it comes to visits on family occasions such as weddings or birthdays. The speaker sees this practice as a “very big problem”. Pro Asyl regrets this very much.
The daughter from Tübingen solved the problem for herself and was actually able to see her parents. Hanin recently became a German citizen. She booked a ticket at short notice and flew to Turkey. “But there are many refugees who are not so lucky,” she says. For them, “the doors of all the countries in the world” are closed. Hanin does not understand why, from her point of view, “the human aspects are not taken into account” in visa applications. She fervently wishes that the German embassies would look constructively for solutions. Then, she is sure, this will have a “positive effect on the psyche of those concerned and also on their ability to integrate”.
Detailed information on visas and answers to frequently asked questions are available at:
Flughafen Stuttgart. Foto: tünews INTERNATIONAL / Mostafa Elyasian.
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