The German parliament has voted pro the lifting of the suspension of family reunification for migrants with subsidiary status. The bill, which foresees the lifting of the ban on August 1, passed after a heated debate among all parties, with 376 of the German Bundestag members voting pro and the 248 others against.

The moratorium permits a maximum of one thousand additional refugees to settle in Germany per month, provided they are direct relatives of refugees already living in the country.

In March 2016, Germany had imposed a two-year suspension on family reunifications for migrants with so-called “subsidiary” status, which was set to expire in March 2018. Instead, this moratorium will be extended by just over four months, before being lifted in August. The ‘subsidiary status’ holders are not considered political or war refugees, but are temporarily spared deportation on safety grounds.

The decision to limit the number of refugee family reunions, elicited a heated dispute from both, the Bundestag’s left- and right-wing parties.

Members of the Green party and the left-wing Die Linke criticized the deal, insisting that there should be no limit on family reunification, since there are vulnerable children and women among them, and calling the law “arbitrary, morally questionable and inhumane”.

The Free Democrats, on the other hand, said the deal does not make any sense, since the volatile situation in war-torn countries like Syria made the setting of a fixed number illogical.

In the meantime, members of the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD), who voted against the lifting of the suspension, showed their concern about the possibility of a new mass influx of refugees. The AfD lawmaker, Christian Wirth, insisted that the Syrian families should be reunited and resettled in what he called “safety zones in Syria”, and not in Germany.

The measure comes as a result of talks between Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative camp and the Social Democrats. The parties hope a new joint government could be launched at the end of March.

Merkel’s conservatives and the Social Democrats also agreed in principle to cap Germany’s total annual intake of asylum seekers at about 200,000 per year.

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