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Reuniting Refugee Families- the Finnish Approach

Proposal for a paper

Sari Sirva, LL.M, doctoral candidate

Faculty of Law
20014 Turku University

In 2006, nearly half of the immigration to the European Union was channelled through the family
reunification procedure (Groenendijk, Kees, 2006). This was largely due to the stringent
immigration regime of the EU. Family reunification and the legislation regulating it are, therefore, a
central issue in the EU immigration and asylum law and, indeed, policy.

Immigration and refugee law operate within the larger context of global movement of people. This
increased phenomenon is characterised by its mixed nature which has led to a situation where
refugees have difficulties in being recognised as persons whose movement is forced, involuntary
and caused by serious human rights violations. The governments of the asylum countries have, in
their attempts to control immigration at large, often failed to recognise this humanitarian
characteristic of the refugee plight. This phenomenon is visible also in the frame of legislation
created in the EU for family reunification.

The proposed paper deals with the family reunification legislation laid down in the Finnish Aliens´
Act (301/2004). The Council Directive 2003/86/EC on the right to family reunification was
transposed into the Finnish Aliens´ Act in 2006 with the amendment of 380/2006. The paper focuses
on the Finnish family reunification regime which includes, albeit harmonised with the EU law,
some solutions which may differ from the family reunification directive. The compatibility of the
Finnish law with international human rights treaties will be discussed. I will also compare the
Finnish family reunification rules for immigrants with those for refugees in order to study whether
the Finnish law recognises the special position and needs of refugees as regards the right to have a
family reunited. Finally, I will discuss whether the case law or the legislation on the refugee´ s right
to family reunification includes any elements of protectionism caused by the strong tendency to
control immigration. On other words, my attempt is to analyse whether this tendency has diffused
the line between refugees and immigration caused by reasons other than humanitarian ones.

My PhD- thesis is Refugee´ s Right to Family Reunification under International Law and I have
started it in 2007 as a full-time student.

In Turku, 7 July 2008

Sari Sirva
LL.M, doctoral candidate
Turku University