Binational and globalised families in Germany in times of COVID-19

The closing of schools and day-care centres, of retail outlets, restaurants and cafés, the scaling down of public services, contact bans, entry and exit restrictions affect everyone. Globalised families are particularly affected by all these restrictions. Firstly, educational opportunities deteriorate even further for many children, and family lives are under mounting pressure through home schooling. Secondly, the confinement also affects family reunification. Suddenly, many families are far away from each other (across different countries or world regions) and there is no possibility to unite, especially for families with different nationalities. The German Association of Binational Families and Partnerships (member of AGF and COFACE) is looking into the issues faced in particular by those families during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The problem of homeschooling:

If there is one thing, the OECD’s PISA has emphasised, is that nothing determines a child’s educational success more than social background. At regular intervals the OECD warns that in Germany in particular, educational opportunities are extremely unequally distributed. Nowadays a large number of families are left alone with the task of schooling and educating their children. Daycare centres and schools are closed. The lack of support is particularly hard on families who already have a worse starting situation.

Many of the globalised families do not have the necessary education or basic conditions. It starts with appropriate housing conditions for a quiet learning environment or suitable technical equipment. Not all families have computers at home or can cope with the demands of digital teaching. Parents often do not speak German well enough to support their children. The gaps that now arise put these children at a great disadvantage. The educational gap due to family and social background is widening even more. The resulting void and disadvantages are difficult to overcome, and cannot be accomplished by these families alone. Global and immigrant families need complementary support and accompanying family services, they need counselling and qualitative all-day offers.

Adding to the above is the psychological burden. Parents who are primarily concerned with the “survival” of the family, who fear the loss of their jobs or cannot maintain their business without receiving orders or having customers. Parents who cannot simply switch to home office. Many of the globalised families also fear for relatives who might live as refugees in a camp; they worry about grandparents, uncles and aunts who have no security for their livelihood and health in their countries of origin.

In these times, it is hardly possible to speak of an adequate work-life-balance. Even for parents who can switch to home office and have sufficient educational and technical equipment. They must rearrange their daily lives completely, reconcile school, work and private life. Many parents find this difficult to achieve, but for single parents it is virtually impossible.

Love in times of Corona:

Because of the pandemic, many governmental agencies have slowed down their services or are completely closed to the public. This is an existential problem for binational couples. Couples who want to marry for example face now far higher bureaucracy and their life together in Germany is left in uncertainty, more than ever during these difficult times.

Starting with the problem that registry and foreigner’s offices are incommunicado. The couples have problems getting important documents from abroad, as the State administrations in other countries have been shut-down as well for an unforeseeable future. In addition, those couples must be present when getting married, another obstacle in case one partner is abroad. The national regulations currently do not allow an entry to Germany. Even those in possession of a valid entry visa cannot enter the country at present. It is also not possible for a couple to marry in the country of origin of the partner due to travel limitations. In addition, the German embassies abroad are closed until further notice. Applications for entry visas cannot be made.

The possibility of obtaining residence through paternity is also hardly possible at present. This applies to the parents-to-be, as there are currently no appointments given for filiation. This also endangers the family life for the couples in Germany. If the partner is still abroad, the expectant mother has to cope with the situation all by herself.

This also includes couples who have already married in Germany, but one partner has to leave the country. In order to meet legal requirements, the application for family reunification must be submitted from abroad. The deadlines set for this can no longer be met, as they are not allowed to leave the country.

Binational couples are particularly vulnerable in times of COVID-19, they need more protection, support and less bureaucracy. Only this can guarantee a family life together in one place.
In order to highlight these major challenges, the German Association of Binational Families has launched To draw attention the petition “Recht auf Familie – Corona Rettungsschirm für binationale Paare” (Right to family – Corona rescue parachute for binational couples) addressed to the German interior minister.

The Association of Binational Families and Partnerships has been committed to the basic and human rights of all families and couples living here for almost 50 years, regardless of their origin, sexual orientation or religion. As a representative of the interests of binational, globalised families, the association works throughout Germany at the interfaces of family, migration and education policy.

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