accessibility & help

Red Cross calls for widening of refugee Family Reunion rules

1 December 2015

  • Thousands of families split apart due to restrictions
  • Rule change would open up safe and legal route to safety for vulnerable people
  • MPs to vote on rule change on December 1st

The Red Cross and Refugee Council are calling on MPs to vote to broaden the rules that govern which family members refugees can bring safely to the UK.

While people with refugee and protection status in the UK can bring their spouses and children, other vulnerable family members are not included, meaning many families are split apart.

The charities are calling for the rules to be changed to allow refugees’ extended family to apply, including children over 18 years old, dependent parents and grandparents and siblings who have no other family.

This clause to the Immigration Bill will be debated in the House of Commons on December 1st.

Alex Fraser, Head of Refugee Services at the British Red Cross said: “Images of the refugee crisis in Europe over the past few months have really brought home the painful realities of thousands of people fleeing from conflict and persecution.

“At the British Red Cross we have helped reunite nearly 300 refugee families so far this year, but we regularly encounter heart-breaking cases the rules simply don’t cover, resulting in the trauma of separation.

“Recently two Syrian brothers came to us asking for help to be reunited with their mother who was stuck in a camp in Iraq and had been imprisoned in Syria.

Despite her vulnerability, as a woman alone with no other family and in a second country, she did not qualify for refugee family reunion.

“In another case a Syrian-born Palestinian refugee wished to bring his wife and children to join him in the UK.

Unfortunately, their eldest son was aged 20 at the time of making the application.

His wife and younger children were granted visas, but his elder son was refused due to his age. The family are now divided.”

The UK has pledged to give sanctuary to 20,000 Syrian people over the next 5 years and broadening the criteria for refugee family reunion would help thousands more people in danger by strengthening an existing a safe and legal route to sanctuary.

The amendment is being supported by Liberal Democrat Leader Tim Farron who said: "The government recognises that families who find themselves in this situation deserve to be reunited, which is why there are reunion rules already in place.

“But currently these are far too narrow and mean that thousands are left separated, sometimes by thousands of miles, from all the family they have left in the world.

“This amendment goes some way to solving this harrowing problem. This is just one part of what we should be doing to help those in crisis and is something that any reasonable Conservative should accept as the right thing to do.”

Refugee Council Head of Advocacy Dr. Lisa Doyle added: "Many of us in Britain take it for granted that we’re able to live in safety with our mums, dads and children.

"Sadly, for refugee families torn apart by war and persecution, the heartache of separation is a daily pain which is worsened by Britain’s unnecessarily harsh immigration policies.

"No families should be left to make impossible choices in order to be together. No families should be unnecessarily, permanently divided and in danger.

"Changing the rules won’t just bring refugee families back together; it could help save lives."


Notes to editors

For more information, interviews or case studies call Lucy Keating on 0207 877 7095 or email