New research we have launched today with Oxfam reveals that refugees living in the UK are prevented from successfully integrating into British life because they are unable to be reunited with their loved ones, even if they are facing grave danger overseas.
Our research details cases of refugees becoming desperate, and even suicidal, because of the distress caused by UK Government rules which prevent families from being reunited. We found that many refugees were plagued by worry, which left them unable to focus on finding work, making friends or learning English. In a few cases, refugees were so anxious they rarely left their homes.
The separation can also have practical consequences, with refugees becoming overwhelmed by extra caring responsibilities that restrict the time they can spend on activities to help them settle into UK life. One young Syrian man, Joram, became the sole carer for his eight-year-old sister and parents, both of whom have serious medical conditions. His brother, who used to share the responsibility of looking after the family, is trapped in Lebanon and ineligible to join them here.
Current rules only allow adult refugees to be reunited with their spouses and children younger than 18. Legal aid, which can prove vital for families trying to be reunited with family members, was dropped for refugee family reunion cases in 2013.
The launch of our report comes ahead of a crucial debate in Parliament in March where MPs will consider changing these rules. We need at least 100 MPs to attend and vote to allow refugees in the UK to be joined by their families. You can help by making sure that your MP is one of them.
Of course, some restrictions will remain, but easing the stranglehold will help some of those forced to flee due to the global refugee crisis. They have lost their homes, been separated from their families and all that they know. We want them to have a chance to rebuild their lives so they can have safe, happy futures together.