Supporting the Refugees (Family Reunion) Bill as part of the Families Together Coalition
At CFAB, much of our work surrounding child protection entails reuniting refugee children with their families once reaching Britain, which means we are only too aware of the legal difficulties that can come with refugee family reunification in the UK. As a result of this, we are part of the Families Together Coalition who supported the Refugees (Family Reunion) Bill, which had its second reading in the House of Lords earlier this month. We are proud to be part of this coalition pushing for the rights of refugees to be upheld and supported in this country.
Why was the Bill put forward?
Refugee family reunification should be a basic tenant of any humane refugee policy, with the recognition that families should not be kept apart and having loved ones around you can make an immeasurable impact on settling into your new home. This was present in the UK government’s Ukraine Family Scheme following the Russian invasion, but this provision is otherwise noticeably absent for refugees entering the UK from different locations, especially across the Global South, such as Afghanistan and Eritrea.
The Nationality and Borders Act 2022, which came in as of June this year, places anyone who arrives ‘irregularly’ to the UK in group 2, and as a result, many of these people won’t have their family reunification applications granted. This is estimated to affect up to 3,500 people a year, undermining this safe route and forcing many people to take more dangerous routes to be reunited with family members.
Currently, UK refugee policy means that for people fleeing different conflicts, different refugees have different levels of access to family reunion. For example, people who were evacuated from Afghanistan in August 2021 cannot access refugee family reunion, whereas Ukrainians escaping the war there can be reunited with a wide grouping of family members – including grandparents, nieces and uncles.
These discrepancies have never been explained by the government, and it can only be assumed, from such inconsistencies that white European lives are deemed more worthy than the lives and humanity of people in the Global South. This injustice is something that the Families Together Coalition is aiming to tackle with the Refugees (Family Reunion) Bill.
The Bill proposes the following:
- Allow more people to access refugee family reunion, by allowing anyone granted a protection status in the UK to sponsor their siblings and children up to the age of 25, as well as their parents.
- Create immigration rules that allow unaccompanied refugee children to be reunited with loved ones, including siblings.
- Restore legal aid for refugee family reunion cases, as currently they are not eligible.
At CFAB, having worked with hundreds of refugee children and seeing the impact of both forced separation from family, and the immense impact family reunion can have on peoples’ lives, we are proud to be a part of the Families Together Coalition pushing for better for all refugees. To have an environment surrounded by loving family, is never more important than in the case of people fleeing immense harm and trauma in their home countries.