If you or someone you love is waiting for Family Reunification from Greece to another European country, you may be frustrated by how long the process can take. If you feel like you have been waiting far too long, you are not alone.
Learn more about the delays, and why they happen, below.
After finding out they are accepted for Family Reunification, most people wait 3 to 6 months to leave Greece, the Greek Asylum Service recently told Refugee.Info.
However, there are people who were accepted for Family Reunification in January who are still in Greece, the Asylum Service told us.
Under official rules for Family Reunification, you shouldn’t have to wait more than 11 months from the moment you apply to the moment you fly.
After your Full Registration appointment, the Asylum Service has 3 months to ask the country where your family member lives to take over your asylum application.
The country where your family member lives has 2 months to decide if it will accept the request.
If the country where your family member lives accepts the request, Greece has 6 months to send you there.
But in reality, the process often takes longer.
Approved but still in Greece
A few thousand people are estimated to still be in Greece now, even though they were approved for Family Reunification.
According to new statistics the Greek Asylum Service released this month, 9,378 people have been approved to leave Greece through Family Reunification since 2013.
7,534 of them, or 80.3%, were approved in 2016 and 2017.
However, only 4,648 — just less than half the number of people approved since 2013 — have left Greece through Family Reunification.
That number is equal to 61.7% of the people approved since January 1, 2016.
How many people leave per month
Greek Asylum Service statistics show that in 2016, an average of 79.3 people left Greece through Family Reunification each month.
In the first 7 months of 2017, an average of 320.4 people per month left Greece through Family Reunification.
In June 2017, 212 people left Greece through Family Reunification. In July 2017, 377 people left Greece through Family Reunification.
By the numbers
Refugee.Info has requested more information from the Greek Asylum Service on statistics by specific country.
We will share it when we receive it. In the meantime, we do have general information about overall transfers, requests, approvals and rejections through Family Reunification.
Between June 7, 2013, and July 31, 2017: Greece transferred 4,648 people to other European countries for Family Reunification.
Greece transferred 951 in 2016 and 2,243 in the first 7 months of 2017.
The number of people who left Greece through Family Reunification in July, 377, is a bit higher than the 2017 average of 320.4.
Between June 7, 2013, and July 31, 2017: Greece sent 16,684 Family Reunification requests to other European countries.
Greece sent 5,591 of them in 2016 and 8,121 of them in the first seven months of 2017.
It sent 854 requests in July 2017, fewer than the 2017 average of 1,160.1.
Between June 7, 2013, and July 31, 2017: Other European countries approved 9,378 people in Greece for Family Reunification.
They approved 3,106 of them in 2016 and 4,428 in the first 7 months of 2017.
290 people found out they were approved in July 2017. That number is much lower than the 2017 average of 632.6.
The Greek Asylum Service said a disproportionately large number of people were approved in May 2017, but it didn't say exactly how many.
Between June 7, 2013, and July 31, 2017: Other European countries rejected 4,063 people in Greece for Family Reunification.
They rejected 998 in 2016 and 2,109 in the first 7 months of 2017.
421 people found out they were rejected in July, compared to the 2017 average of 301.3.
Why is Family Reunification slow?
Each European country has its own procedure and timeline for Family Reunification applications, the Asylum Service noted.
Some countries ask Greece for more information about applicants before approving them, which slows the process down. Already this year, other countries have asked Greece for more information in more than 2,600 cases.
Last-minute delays happen, too, the Asylum Service said.
Occasionally, a country lowers the number of asylum-seekers it will accept from Greece on a certain day — sometimes on the day the flights are scheduled.
That means some people have to get new plane tickets and wait longer, the Asylum Service said.
Germany's limit on how many people it accepts for Family Reunification has also slowed things down.
If you are waiting for free flights
This summer, UNHCR stopped offering free Family Reunification flights.
The good news: The flights will start again in the autumn now that UNHCR has secured more funding for the program.
They will probably begin soon after a new travel agency signs an agreement to take over booking Family Reunification travel. The travel agency is expected to sign its agreement by September 20, 2017.
The bad news: Even then, the pace of transfers won't increase because Germany and other destination countries won't allow larger numbers of people to arrive at one time.
Who can help
If you need help with your Family Reunification case from Greece, contact Ecumenical Refugee Program. They specialize in Family Reunification cases.
To get more information about your pending Family Reunification case, try calling EASO's hotline.