Pressure mounts on Government to change restrictive rules that keep refugee families apart

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16 Oct 2017

The Government was today asked to change their rules and give child refugees in the UK the right to be reunited with their family members. The call was made during a session for MPs to ask questions to Home Office Ministers in the House of Commons.

Layla Moran, the Member of Parliament for Oxford West and Abingdon, told the House of Commons that lone refugee children are unable to sponsor even their closest family members to join them in safety in the UK. She said that the Home Affairs Select Committee had described this as “perverse” and that the Refugee Council and other organisations have called for the rules to be changed.

Moran urged the Government to support proposed legislation that would enable more refugee families to be reunited in the UK and to “allow these vulnerable children a chance to have the loving upbringing that every child surely deserves.”

Angus MacNeil, MP for the Western Isles, added that his Private Members’ Bill on Refugee Family Reunion would be debated on March 16 2018. The bill, which is supported by the Refugee Council, Oxfam GB, UNHCR UK, Amnesty International UK and the British Red Cross, would allow child refugees in the UK to sponsor their parents and siblings, as well as allowing adult refugees to sponsor a wider range of family members.

Responding for the Government, Immigration Minister Brandon Lewis said that the Home Office does consider if there are exceptional circumstances and cases can be granted “outside the rules”.

Commenting, Judith Dennis, Policy Manager at the Refugee Council, said:

“It’s welcome that MPs continue to put pressure on the Home Office to reform the family reunion rules. Currently, refugee families who have been torn apart when fleeing war and persecution are being kept apart just when they need each other the most.

“Every day, we see the impact that being kept apart from loved ones has on refugees. Whether they are children who want to be able to see their parents again, or a mother who is worried about her 18-year-old daughter, refugees want to be able to live in safety with their family.

“In the coming months, the Government will have plenty of opportunities to change these rules. It’s high time these wrongs were put right.”

There are a number of restrictions about which family members qualify for refugee family reunion. Under the current rules, for adult refugees in the UK, only partners and dependent children under the age of 18 who were part of the family unit before the refugee fled will usually come under the definition of “family”. Child refugees are unable to sponsor any family members.