On the 9th of March 2023, the CJEU published the Advocate’s General Opinion in respect of C-1/23 PPU, Afrin. The case concerned a Syrian family, X and Y and their children A and B, of whom Y is recognised as refugee in Belgium and X and the children are still in Syria. The applicants applied for family reunification by an e-mail stating that they are in exceptional circumstances preventing them from submitting their application in person to Belgium’s representation abroad. The Belgian authorities stated that such an application by e-mail is not permitted. In the course of appeals proceedings the Brussels’ Court of first instance decided to request a preliminary ruling on the compatibility of Belgian legislation with the Family Reunification Directive.

In assessing Belgium’s legislation and practice, the Advocate General Pitruzzela (AG) first declared that not providing explicit, transparent and generalized alternative procedures undermines the objective of the Directive (promoting family reunification) when the movement of the family members to the representation proves impossible. Furthermore, the effectiveness of this Directive is undermined by making it impossible to exercise the right to family reunification in practice. The AG highlighted that this is still the case even though the applicants may seek temporary derogation from this practice. Second, the right to respect family life under the EU Charter and best interests of the child should be taken into account. Third, the legislation and practice fail to comply with the individualisation obligation when implementing a Directive.

The AG therefore concludes that Articles 7 and 24(2) of the Charter, preclude the legislation of a MS which requires family members, in particular those of a recognised refugee, who are in a third country to lodge their family reunification application in person at the MS representation abroad, without making provision for exceptions where in view of the specific situation of the person concerned and the circumstances prevailing in their country of residence, travel to such a representation would be impossible, excessively difficult or risky.

Based on an unofficial translation from within the ELENA team