Refugee Council responds to Chief Inspector report on family reunion

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06 Sep 2018

The Chief Inspector finds that the Government have acted ‘far too slow’ to implement the recommendations from his 2016 report on family reunion, with 8 out of 10 recommendations still not fully implemented.

The Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration’s latest report ‘A re-inspection of the family reunion process’ explores the Home Office's progress in implementing the 10 recommendations originally made in a previous inspection.

The Chief Inspector, David Bolt first looked at the Home Office’s handling of family reunion applications in 2016, making 10 recommendations for improvement, all of which were accepted by the Home Office.  The thrust of the recommendations called for greater flexibility in the decision making process to reflect the fact that the majority of applicants were living in difficult and sometimes dangerous circumstances.  Our response to the original report provides a summary of the original report.

This new report from the Chief Inspector finds that 8 out of 10 original recommendations remain “open” with the Inspector stating that the Home Office has acted ‘far too slow’ towards implementation, particularly given the potential impact on the lives of families seeking to be reunited. 

The Chief Inspector found that the Home Office needs to undertake additional work to ‘close’ deal with the remaining recommendations, including to:

Increase the use of interviews to resolve questions over an application, including access to interpreters where necessary

  • Improve record keeping, decision quality, ECM quality assurance and refusal notices
  • Improve the timeliness of decisions
  • Improve the collection and analysis of relevant data/management information

In response to the 2016 report, the Home Office introduced a number of changes, including a revision of their internal guidance to provide clarity to decision makers on exercising discretion when granting applications ‘outside the rules’ for cases involving exceptional or compassionate circumstances.  

We are encouraged that the Chief Inspector found that decision makers were considering “exceptional circumstances” or “compassionate factors” when deciding family reunion applications, addressing one of the key concerns of the original inspection.  However, it is extremely disappointing that the majority of his original recommendations have yet to be implemented, two years on from the original report, leaving many families at risk of being unable to re-unite with their family members. 

We also remain concerned that refugees in the UK have to fight and argue for their pre-existing family to be reunited, just because a child has turned 18. Families come in all shapes and sizes and wanting your 18 year old daughter to live with you is not exceptional.

Responding to this report, Andy Hewett, Head of Advocacy at the Refugee Council, said:

“The report confirms that whilst the Home Office has made some progress since the previous inspection, the pace of change remains painfully slow. We urge the Home Office to re-double their efforts in response to the Chief Inspector’s report to ensure that refugees are able to reunite with their family members through a fast, fair and effective application process. No families should be left to make impossible choices to live together.”

Family reunion polices are hugely important to the refugees we work with. Every day we hear about how people were torn apart from their loved ones during their perilous journeys from war and conflict. It is through family reunion that refugees in the UK are able to apply to be reunited with family members still overseas. You can read more about our campaign work on this crucial issue here.