Family reunification conference 9-10 September 2021

"(Dis)connecting people? The law and practice of family reunification"

Conference theme

We look forward to welcoming you to the International Conference “(Dis)connecting People? The law and practice of family reunification” on 9-10 September 2021 in Ghent.

Family reunification is a legal pathway to (re)unite family members living in different countries. It is a complex field of law, as different rules apply depending on the nationality and status of the persons involved. During the past decades, rules on family reunification have been made more stringent, especially for third country nationals. From a human rights perspective, the right to respect for family life has only in specific circumstances led to an obligation for states to admit family members. Families are thus increasingly facing legal and practical obstacles, which have an impact on their psychosocial well-being and intra-family relationships, both during and after the family reunification process. From a societal perspective, family reunification regimes and practices are key to reflect on a wide number of debates in social sciences, such as the limits of transnationalism and the gap between legal frameworks, institutional policies and street level bureaucracy.

    Keynote speakers

    We are delighted to announce our two keynote speakers for the conference.

    Prof. em. Kees Groenendijk (Radboud University) and dr. Federica Infantino (European University Institute)

    Prof. em. Kees Groenendijk is a professor emeritus Sociology of Law and Migration Law. He works for the Centre for Migration Law (Radboud University, Netherlands), where he studies the regulation of migration and the legal status of migrants in the Netherlands and in Europe. His most recent publications are on the regulation of family migration and labour migration, the status of long-established immigrants, and the creation and effects of the new EU directives on migration and asylum.

    Dr. Federica Infantino is a Marie Sklodowska-Curie Fellow at the Migration Policy Centre, European University Institute. Her main research interests focus on the actors and the organizations that put migration and border control into practice, the transfer of practice, and the involvement of non-state actors most notably private companies. Her research aims at illuminating migration and border control on the ground.

    Call for submissions

    Closing date for submissions is Saturday 1 May 2021 (23:59 CET)

    This conference aims to establish a dialogue on family reunification between the legal and social sciences, as well as to cross bridges between academia, policy and practice. To that end, it will bring together scholars from various disciplines (such as law, sociology, anthropology, social work, political sciences, geography) as well as policy makers and practitioners, in order to discuss conceptual and practical challenges regarding family reunification. The organising committee welcomes any scholar, policy maker and practitioner working on a topic within this theme.

    We welcome in particular abstracts on one or more of the following topics:

    • The divergent legal rules applicable to EU citizens, ‘static’ nationals, third country nationals (in general), Turkish migrants, refugees, beneficiaries of subsidiary protection etc.
    • The perceptions and strategies of the various actors involved in the law and practice of family reunification
    • The obstacles - legal, as well as social, economic, bureaucratic and emotional - faced in practice by families, social workers, lawyers and NGOs to realize family reunification
    • The relevance of the right to respect for family life in family reunification
    • The contrast and overlap between emic and legal understandings of categories, such as families, love, couples and parenthood
    • The role of family reunification in bordering processes and practices
    • Cross-cutting issues relating to, for instance, the resources requirements, the recognition of foreign documents, children’s rights, and the principle of non-discrimination


    Submissions should be made in EasyChair by 1 May 2021 and include:

    • Title of the submission
    • Abstract of up to 300 words and
    • Contact details and brief biography for each author

    We will respond to all submissions by 15 June 2021.


    We are delighted to announce that our provisional programme has finished!
    In light of our objective of facilitating encounters between academics, policy makers and practitioners on the one hand, and between different disciplinary perspectives of the other, we have composed the panels in such a way as to maximize these exchanges.

    You can see the latest draft of the programme here.


    Registration for the conference is now open! The conference will be physical – subject to sanitary measures – but online participation is possible as well.

    Please note that all attendees, including presenters, must register in advance. If your abstract has been accepted for the conference, you must register before 16 July to secure your place in the conference programme.

    Presenters attend for free; reduced rates are available for (PhD) students.

    2 days live (regular) 120 EUR; 2 days online (regular) 60 EUR

    If you have technical issues with registration or questions please contact us on

    ​Please click here for registration.

    Practical information

    The conference will take place on 9 and 10 September 2021 at the Faculty of Law and Criminology of Ghent University, Universiteitstraat 4, 9000 Ghent (Belgium).

    We aim at organizing a physical conference. If travel restrictions are imposed, online presentations will be possible.

    Contact details:



    Organising committee

    Dr. Milena Belloni, FWO, Department of Sociology, University of Antwerp

    Sarah Den Haese, Institute for Private International Law, Ghent University

    Prof. Ellen Desmet, Migration Law Research Group, Ghent University

    Hester Kroeze, Ghent European Law Institute, Ghent University

    Ayse Güdük, Migration Law Research Group, Ghent University

    Prof. Dirk Vanheule, Government & Law Research Group, University of Antwerp

    Prof. Peter Van Elsuwege, Ghent European Law Institute, Ghent University

    Prof. Jinske Verhellen, Institute for Private International Law, Ghent University

    Prof. Gert Verschraegen, Department of Sociology, University of Antwerp

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