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12 January 2022

Denmark: Long family reunification processes increase PTSD risk for refugee fathers

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Danish researchers have published a study which is the first of its kind, documenting how refugees in Denmark who are waiting for their families to arrive via family reunification processes are affected by the length of waiting times. Most commonly, they are fathers who were forced to leave wives and children behind in their home country or in a third country.

The study's findings are significant. The risk of receiving a psychiatric diagnosis is twice as high for refugee fathers waiting for their families to arrive than for other refugee fathers, and this risk increases the longer the family is separated. More than 20% of waiting fathers have been diagnosed with a psychological disorder, the most common being PTSD.

The majority of asylum seekers arriving in Denmark were already part of a 'nuclear' family before being granted asylum. Most family members arrive separately, usually sending men first because of the long, dangerous and expensive journeys they are forced to make. 8 out of 10 fathers in this study were found to have waited longer than a year to be reunited with their families, and one in four were found to have waited longer than two years. These long waiting periods can comprise several stages: the flight itself, waiting time during the asylum process and, if asylum is granted, waiting time during a new case for family reunification. If rejected, an appeal case in Denmark can take two years; sometimes longer.

The study does not look at the experiences of those that have no hope of being reunited with their families at all: the fathers that apply for family reunification and appeal in vain for years, but are unable to meet the strict documentation requirements of the process. Such fathers appear in data sets as "single", but are likely to be among those most severely affected by the long, complicated family reunification and appeals processes. An example of such a person is a man called Misghinna, from Eritrea, who was granted asylum in Denmark in 2015 after being forced to leave his young wife behind when he made the journey to Europe. His application for family reunification was turned down and the ensuing appeal case is still pending. He has been waiting for six years.


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Posted by
Michala Clante Bendixen
Country Coordinator

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