When Oudai Alhomsi left his wife, toddler son and eight-month-old daughter in Jordan to seek asylum in Germany in 2015, he thought it would be a matter of months before they could join him.
He hasn’t seen them since.
Alhomsi, 28, settled in Berlin and authorities granted him subsidiary protection rather than full refugee residency, which meant a one-year renewable visa. As a result, he could not bring the family.
“When he first left, whenever a plane would fly by, my son would yell ‘Dad! Get off the plane and come get us’,” Alaa Masalmeh, Alhomsi’s wife, told Reuters in an interview in her bare apartment in downtown Amman.
Migration, and in particular family reunions, was one of the thorniest issues in forming a coalition government between Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives and the Social Democrats (SPD) earlier this year.
A new law resuming family reunification came into force on Wednesday, rekindling the family’s hopes of being reunited.
But the law only allows up to 1,000 family members a month to join their loved ones in Germany. With some 34,000 family reunion applications filed at German embassies worldwide pending a decision, such a reunion could take years.
“With the condition that 1,000 people can come over every month, it is a problem. Even if I get the chance of a family reunion, who are the ones who will come first? When will they come?” he said.
Refugees who have made an effort to integrate through language courses, apprenticeship and work will be given priority to invite family members.
Ahomsi speaks good German after more than a year of daily classes and is currently interning as a technician at Berlin’s BVG public transport company.
However he is not getting his hopes up.
“They changed the law twice. Twice! So for the third time of course I won’t believe it until I see them here in Berlin with residencies.”
His wife is worried her children will not recognize their dad when they eventually see him, but she is more optimistic about starting a new life in Germany.
“I want to raise my children there, to provide them with an education, better universities. Here we have no future,” she said.