German parliament extends migrant family reunification rules

February 01, 2018 - 5:54 am

BERLIN (AP) — German lawmakers approved a measure Thursday extending current rules limiting migrants' rights to bring close relatives to the country, paving the way for a new plan agreed to in coalition talks between Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative Union bloc and the center-left Social Democrats to take effect in the summer.

Lawmakers voted 678 to 376 to approve the measure proposed by Merkel's bloc, which extends through July the current temporary ban on relatives joining migrants whose status in Germany is below full asylum.

The suspension of family reunification rules for persons only entitled to so-called "subsidiary protection" was instituted in early 2016, after Germany was overwhelmed with the arrival of 890,000 asylum seekers the year before.

The issue has been a major point of contention between Merkel's conservatives and the Social Democrats, but they were able to come to an agreement earlier this week in coalition talks to form a new government. Under that plan, Germany would allow in 1,000 relatives per month for migrants whose status is less than full asylum, and additionally people considered hardship cases under existing rules.

Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere had pushed for parliament to extend the current suspension to pave the way for the new agreement, calling it a fair compromise.

"Our compromise stands for humanity and accountability, for integration and limitations," he said.

Merkel's Christian Democratic Union and Bavarian-only Christian Social Union hope to wrap up coalition negotiations with the Social Democrats by Sunday, though it may take longer.

The Social Democrats' membership will need to approve any agreement. If they do, officials have said they hope to be able to form the new government by Easter.

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