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Families Belong Together

Families belong together. Sure, there are times when we wish for a little space – from the one too many dad jokes, or the times your siblings are a just a little much. But being together, with people that you care about and that care about you, is where we belong. Families should be together, in safety. 

But right now, families are kept apart for an unnecessarily long period of time. They often have to wait months or years to receive an answer from the Dutch government. It does not need to be this way. Sign the petition and ask the Dutch government to bring refugee families together more quickly. Because families belong together, in safety.

What’s happening?

Refugee families that have been separated from each other due to war, violence or persecution, have the right to be reunited. This is called family reunification. On paper, this is well arranged in the Netherlands. In practice, it is not. Families enter an endless tangle of bureaucracy, rules and procedures that are keeping families apart for an unnecessary long time, often in unsafe circumstances. This causes a process that on paper only takes several months, to take up over 2 years. 

One of the causes of the delays is that family members sometimes need to make dangerous journeys for interviews or visa pickups, because embassies closer by are not always accessible in countries struck by war or violence. This leads to unsafe situations for many families, while there are good and safe alternatives available. 

Covid-19 makes this even clearer: waiting times have further increased since March, and many embassies that play an important role are closed, keeping families apart for even longer. 

What needs to change?

It does not need to be this way. The government has a choice; politicians and policymakers can make different decisions and bring refugee families together, in a way that is faster, fairer and safer.

Faster, Fairer and Safer  

Last year UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, published a report on family reunification with recommendations to make the process faster, fairer and safer for everyone.

  • Faster: Avoid duplication at the IND. Link the asylum procedure to the family reunification procedure in order to avoid double applications. This saves work for the IND and the refugees and it shortens the process so families can be together faster. 
  • Fairer procedures: Do not make impossible demands for refugees as documents are not always available. The IND sticking to unrealistic requests costs everyone unnecessary work and time, whilst there are better and faster alternatives available.
  • Safer: Often times family members have to make unnecessary long trips through unsafe territory, and even need to cross dangerous borders to pick up their visa. There are simpler and safer alternatives to provide these families the necessary documents and visas. 

Take Action and Sign the Petition! 

These solutions are possible and make a big difference for families who want to be together again. That is why we support UNHCR’s campaign and call upon the Dutch government to make family reunification faster, fairer and safer. Because families belong together!

Why is an ice cream maker involved in this?

Ben & Jerry’s social mission aim is to advance fairness, equity, opportunity and justice to communities across the globe that have been historically marginalized. This is why we stand with refugees and work with our partners to encourage our fans to join movements that are leading the fight for refugee rights

Read more about why we do this or watch the video of the founders Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield during the Global Refugee Forum of UNHCR in Geneva in December 2019. 

  • When people need to flee from war, persecution or violence, families sometimes get separated from each other. People who are recognized as refugees, have a right to family reunification. In the Netherlands, this process is well-arranged on paper. But in practice, it means that families are separated an unnecessarily long period of time. Read this blog on the various steps that people take and how the process needs to be faster, fairer and safer according to UNHCR. 

  • Refugee families are being kept apart of an unnecessarily long period of time. They have to wait months or years before they can be reunited. Covid-19 has made this even worse: waiting times are increasing and many embassies that play a role in the process are closed, meaning refugee families cannot pick up essential travel visa’s. It does not need to be this way. The time is now to make the process faster, fairer and safer!

  • On paper, this process takes a few months. In practice, it takes over two years. This is what it looks like:

    - Asylum procedure:

    1-2 years

    - Application family reunification: 

    3 months

    - Decision:

    5,5 months

    - Family making journey:

    3 months to one year

  • By linking the asylum procedure to the family reunification process, people save double administrational handling, resource and time by both IND and the refugee. The refugee for example does not need to provide the same documents twice. This can shorten the process by three months, meaning refugee families can be united three months faster.

  • The IND is asking for documents that sometimes are not available in countries stricken by war, violence or persecution. For example: 

    • Women and children do not receive identity papers in some countries
    • In times of war, birth certificates, death certificates or other formal documents are unobtainable from governmental bodies
    • Custody for foster children is sometimes not formally arranged compared to the Netherlands, and therefore harder to prove with official documents
    • If documents exist, it can be dangerous for refugees to approach the authorities for documents in countries where there is oppression. 

    Until recently, the IND dealt with applications in a more flexible way with requests that were not complete. But more recently, the government decided to dismiss incomplete family reunification applications sooner and not judge them based on the content. This can cause families to be kept apart for even longer. If documents are not delivered on time, applications will need to start from step 1 again.

  • The longer the process, the longer family members are kept apart. Families need to undertake dangerous journeys and cross unsafe borders to finally arrive at a Dutch embassy to collect documents or to do an interview. We say unneeded, because there are simpler and safer solutions.
    For example:

    • Gives consulates the same privileges as embassies to conduct research and provide visa’s
    • Covid-19 has shown that families can be well- interviewed online. A physical visit to an embassy is not needed.
    • Join forces with others: for example by working with embassies of other countries or international organizations. UNHCR can facilitate videocalls from places that do not have an embassy, or transport visa’s between UNHCR offices and embassies 

  • UNHCR has over the past 70 years stood up for people fleeing from war, persecution and violence. Since 1950 they have helped refugees to build up their lives in safety. It is a very well-respected organization and we are proud to be working with them.

    In 2019 our founders Ben Cohen and jerry Greenfield were at the first Global Refugee Forum organised by UNHCR/ here, NGOs refugees and businesses, came together to show solidarity and actions for a world where refugees are welcome. Watch the video here.

  • The plan is for UNHCR to offer the signatures from the petition ‘Families Belong Together - Gezinnen horen Samen’ to the minister currently responsible for the asylum policy in the Netherlands

  • Refugee families are often times separated and waiting foran unnecessarily long period of time. Covid-19 puts the situation under even more pressure: waiting times are increasing, and many embassies that play an important role are closed, keeping families apart for even longer. This does not have to be this way. Now is the moment to make the process faster, fairer and safer!

    • In 2017 we launched the Ice Academy an entrepreneurial program for people with a refugee background. So far, the program supported 175 entrepreneurs with a refugee background in 4 European countries (UK, France, Germany and the Netherlands) of which half of the participants have found a job afterwards.
    • We are the founders of Refugee Action Network ((BRAN) together with Virgin and the B Team to engage as many employers as possible to seek out for new talent. We are also active members of the TENT Partnership for Refugees, an international coalition of employers to support new talent. 
    • We work together with a variety of organisations to improve the rights of refugees. For example, the Refugee Action Network in the UK. Together we ran the campaign ‘Waiting Isn’t Working’ to support the working rights of refugees. Our colleagues in Germany are working together with organisations as Seawatch to launch the campaign #LeaveNoOneBehind and with Start with a Friend, an organisation that supports a more inclusive society.   
    • Last year in December, our founders Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield attended the Global Refugee Forum in Geneva, to reveal our new flavour Cone Together. With this new flavour they called upon world leaders to defend the rights of refugees worldwide.

  • We always kept our ice cream flavours and campaigning non-partisan. Whilst you won’t hear us telling people how to use their vote in support of a particular party or person for example, what we will do is champion fairness and equality and challenge situations where people are treated unfairly whenever we believe we can make a change. 

  • No. We have raised our voice for over 30 years to support the things that matter to us, from equal rights for the LGBTQ community, to the right to vote. This is part of what our founders stand for and therefore part our company’s DNA. Do you want to know more about this? Listen to this podcast for an interview with one of the founders Jerry Greenfield.

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