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Refugees have bureaucratic problems when they try to come to Europe. But once people are granted protection, they are entitled to bring in their families. Reuters found that despite having a legal right to be reunited, these families remain separated, often in the case of Syrians fleeing Islamic State because they need to produce documents they can only get from the Assad administration.
Reporter Shadia Nasralla, who is based in Vienna, examined this problem for the first time. In the absence of reliable central data, she collated whatever statistics about families in limbo she could find. Nasralla determined that tens of thousands of families are affected by stipulations by European nations requiring Syrians to provide highly specific documents. For instance, she found that often governments require those documents to be certified by Damascus. As a result, the price of Syrian passports has rocketed.
A defining moment came months into Nasralla's investigation, after she had consistently been told that no centrally collated figures were available. Nasralla and German colleague Andrea Shalal uncovered a German parliamentary record which said that in Germany, no comma some 26,000 Syrian applications for family reunifications are not ready for a decision because of missing documents.
It was the first time anyone had attached figures to the problem and reported some of the human hardships behind them. Their work also shed light on the way people, up to and including the administration of Bashar al-Assad, are cashing in on Europe’s bureaucratic immigration systems.
Nasralla took a tale she first heard from Syrians in Vienna beyond the anecdote. Underscoring the commitment of Reuters to "reliable news," she found the overlooked statistics to illuminate an important global story.
Read the Reuters report on Syrian refugees quest for documents here here