Research Handbook on International Refugee Law
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Research Handbook on International Refugee Law

Edited by Satvinder Singh Juss

In an age of ethnic nationalism and anti-immigrant rhetoric, the study of refugees can help develop a new outlook on social justice, just as the post-war international order ends. The global financial crisis, the rise of populist leaders like Trump, Putin, and Erdogan, not to mention the arrival of anti-EU parties, raises the need to interrogate the refugee, migrant, citizen, stateless, legal, and illegal as concepts. This insightful Research Handbook is a timely contribution to that debate.
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Chapter 16: The rights to refugee family reunion

Emily Darling


This chapter examines the international obligations and standards that apply in the context of refugee family reunion. The chapter begins with a brief description of the main terms used to refer to reunification for refugees. The relevant obligations at international level relating to family unity and family reunification are then explained. The level of protection that these standards offer in reality will be examined, along with the limitations on access to family reunification. Limitations on family reunification include the need for implementation of the rights at domestic level, narrow definitions of family members who are eligible for reunification and barriers created from ineffective administrative processing. There is debate whether there is a universal right to family reunification for refugees or whether the obligation on states only extends to an obligation to maintain family unity. The chapter concludes that while there is a well-established right to family unity at international level, it is more difficult to show that there is a universal and legally enforceable right to family reunification for refugees. States retain a wide discretion to limit family reunification for the purposes of border control and state sovereignty. This chapter will show that there is a stronger case for reunification for refugees and children under the international instruments, compared with migrants generally.

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