German embassies are currently only working to a limited extent due to Corona. Because parents do not get a visa, families are separated.
BERLIN taz | The son of Christine Hoffmann (Name changed, d. R.) recently turned one year old. It was a beautiful day. The maternal grandparents came to visit, gifts were given and the family went on an outing. Only: the father wasn’t there. He was only able to join in from Egypt in between, says Hoffmann. He then sang a birthday song via video conference, at least.
To this day, the father could not actually see his son. The problem: He is Egyptian and lives in Egypt. Since his son was born, he has been waiting to get a family reunification visa and travel to Germany. However, a prerequisite for this is an acknowledgment of paternity, which must be carried out at the German embassy in Cairo.
And until the beginning of March there were no appointments for a year: The responsible offices at German missions abroad are often overloaded even at normal times. In the pandemic, they cut their offerings even further – at the expense of families like Christine Hoffmann’s.
Her situation is unusual, but not an isolated case: Hoffmann says she met her partner on vacation in Egypt. The two fell in love and from then on Hoffmann spent every vacation with him. When she became pregnant in the summer of 2019, they decided to build a life together in Germany after the birth. For this, the couple opted for the family reunification visa, which the father is actually entitled to – if it weren’t for the problem with the appointment for paternity recognition.
“Massive encroachment on fundamental rights”
Such notarizations would have “posed special challenges to German diplomatic missions worldwide due to the pandemic,” replied the Federal Foreign Office to a question from the Bundestag member Ulla Jelpke (left). For such appointments, applicants, civil servants and interpreters would have to stay in one room for an hour or more. “That means a very high risk of infection for everyone involved.”
In Cairo, the embassy works alternately in an A and a B team due to Corona, which further restricts capacities. It was only more than a year after the outbreak of the pandemic that the embassy resumed notarizations in March. On request, the ministry cannot say how many representations in other countries had or still have stopped assigning appointments: they do not keep statistics.
“For many binational families, family reunification in Germany became impossible with the suspension of notarizations,” says Left MP Jelpke. “A one-year separation is a massive encroachment on fundamental rights and cannot be justified even in pandemic times.”
In the case of Hoffmann and her partner, the separation takes even longer: Paternity recognition has now taken place. The visa has been applied for. The father now has to submit the final documents to the embassy. However, he has not yet been able to get an appointment for this.