After the trauma of fleeing their home, one small comfort is that a refugee can legally bring over their children and partner. They don’t have to stay apart forever.
This is called ‘family reunion’ – and it’s part of UK and international law. But some families cannot afford the legal help to make it happen – and it’s keeping loved ones apart.
Refugees are struggling to reunite with their family members. The process is not working.
Family reunion: Not so straightforward
Last year, we helped to reunite more than 250 families torn apart by conflict or natural disaster. We look at 91 of those cases in our Family reunion report.
The report shows that family reunion can be very complex. Without expert advice, difficult issues can stop or delay the reunion from even happening. This lack of legal support also leaves women and children stranded in dangerous situations. Here are some of the findings:
Refugees’ families often have to cross borders to lodge a family reunion application at their nearest British embassy. For some, this meant journeys across areas of violence and armed conflict.
Over half of applicants left behind and examined by a Red Cross study were at risk of violence, torture or harassment while applying for family reunion.
Not for everyone
Adult refugees have a legal right, under UK and international law, to be reunited with their children and partner, if they are still overseas. But children over 18 cannot join their parents in the UK, and refugee children are not allowed to sponsor their parents to join them in the UK. Check out our campaign: #TornApart
Ninety-five per cent of people using our family reunion service thought it would be very difficult to apply for family reunion without legal support.
The government should fund complex family reunion cases and make the application form easier to understand and complete.
Many refugees cannot afford to exercise this right because they can’t afford legal help. Since April 2013, legal aid funding has not been available for family reunion in England and Wales.
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