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What are the laws in your country in regards to family tracing?

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08/04/2014 - 09:48

What are the laws in your country in regards to family tracing?


The principle of family reunification, in the Spanish legal framework, is mainly interpreted in the sense of favouring repatriation of the children whenever possible. Theoretically, this is considered the most desirable solution when an unaccompanied child is identified. Yet, in practice the number of children who are sent back to their country of origin is very low, due to the lack of appropriate means for family tracing research.

Due to the lack of a precise legal definition of unaccompanied foreign minor in the French legal system, the protection of this group relies on the same guarantees designed for children in danger. Yet, the procedure of family tracing is not an absolute priority upon arrival of the children, for two main reasons: it can prove very complicated to overcome the obstacles in tracing the family, and it can be detrimental to the pursuit of the best interest of the child. The French Red Cross, with its service of Re-establishment of Family Ties, is competent to look for missing persons.

in the Italian legal framework, the competences regarding needs assessment family tracing procedures fall on the Directorate General for Immigration and integration policies. The body is in charge of promoting family tracing and approving assisted return, possible only with the consent of the youth. In practice, the social services that hold guardianship of the children often directly give input to the procedure, while the research is carried out by IOM. Expulsion is prohibited in case of an unaccompanied minor.

In Greece, the authorities are obliged to trace, as soon as possible, the members of the minor’s family, according to art.19 of the Presidential Decree 200/2007. More specific conditions of family reunification (of migrants and refugees) are laid down in P.D. 131/2006 and P.D. 167/2008, in respect of the prescriptions of the Dublin II regulation.
As far as voluntary return is concerned, the mechanism is set out in the Law 3907/2011, which states: “Before deciding to issue a return decision in respect of an unaccompanied minor and after having given due consideration to the best interests of the child, assistance shall be given by appropriate bodies, other than the authorities enforcing return, pursuant to Article 19 of P.D.220/2007163, who shall act accordingly”; and also “Before removing an unaccompanied minor from the territory of the country, the competent authorities shall ascertain that he or she will be returned to a member of his or her family, a nominated guardian or adequate reception facilities in the State of return”. Yet, safeguards and child rights standards are hardly met in practice, and youths are often subject to arrest, detention and deportation.

The general legal framework is established by the implementation of the Dublin regulation, which claims protection of family unity. To fulfil this obligation, German immigration law, article 36, establishes that the parents of a minor foreigner with a resident permit, can be in turn issued a residence permit, to reunite the family. It will not be necessary for them to prove income, nor sufficient living space, as the general norm would require, nonetheless the requirement for the minor to have a permit complicates the procedure. On the other hand, family tracing can also lead to facilitating voluntary return. Yet, as a procedure per se, family tracing is one of the domains of intervention that has remained less formalized, and is characterised by an ambivalent position of the minor, as well as of the social worker. This is due its possibly negative consequences on the asylum request of the child.

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