We just got one step closer to a humane refugee policy

Refugees may soon be able to be reunited with their families after losing everything.

Britain has moved a step closer to a humane refugee policy, after MPs voted to enable families divided by conflict and persecution to be reunited in Britain.

A Private Member’s Bill from the SNP’s Angus MacNeil MP, the Refugees (Family Reunion) Bill, received cross-party backing from 129 MPs, taking it one step closer to becoming law.

This Bill would allow a wider range of family members to be reunited with refugees in the UK, providing a route for child refugees to grow up with their families, and allow young people who have turned 18 a better chance to be reunited with their parents.

It would also reintroduce legal aid so that refugees who have no resources can navigate the complicated legal process of being reunited with their families.

Kate Allen, Director of Amnesty International UK, said:

“Today’s backing from MPs shows that, along with the British public, politicians across the spectrum care deeply about reuniting refugee families.

“There are hundreds of child refugees in the UK who have arrived alone. On their arrival in the UK they face a multitude of new struggles – a new language and culture as well as the psychological fallout from incredibly traumatic experiences back in their home country.

“MPs voting in favour of the Bill today is a significant step towards reuniting vulnerable children with their families. As the Bill continues its journey through parliament we hope that MPs continue to show their support and send a message to the Government that child refugees in this country have the right to be reunited with their families.”

Currently, the UK Government’s rules prevent refugees in Britain from being reunited with anyone other than their partner or children under 18. Child refugees who arrive in the UK alone are also unable to bring their parents to join them under the current rules. Such a restriction sets the UK apart from most other countries in the EU.

Angus MacNeil MP said:

“[This] marks a welcome step forward for many refugees in the UK who are desperate to be reunited with their loved ones.

“It’s fantastic that this new law received the backing of colleagues from across the political divide. It’s clear that this issue isn’t about party politics, it’s about doing the right thing and it was pretty obvious to all of us that families belong together and that children belong with their parents.

“I hope that Ministers come to the same compassionate conclusion: they change their mind and alter the rules – putting an end to the misery of refugee families with the stroke of a pen.”

Yohannes, a 19-year-old refugee from Eritrea who is living in the UK, said:

‘I’m so happy that MPs are helping to bring refugee families together. I came to the UK as a child refugee and three years on, I’m still living here alone, while my sister is stuck in a camp in Ethiopia. The camp isn’t safe and she is a girl on her own – I am scared she might be hurt. I’m studying and working right now, but it’s hard to think about the future when I’m so worried about my little sister.

“I hope the government will now listen and change the rules so my sister can join me here in safety.”

The proposed law is being backed by a coalition of organisations, including the Refugee Council, UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, Amnesty International, the British Red Cross, Oxfam and Student Action for Refugees (STAR).

The Bill will now go to Committee Stage. Left Foot Forward will be following its progress. 

Josiah Mortimer is Editor of Left Foot Forward. Follow him on Twitter.

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