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Major success for refugee campaign

9 August 2016

Our Torn Apart campaign to put refugee families back together has seen a major success, with the Home Office revising its family reunion policy guidance. 

Current immigration rules mean many young people are left to fend for themselves in some of the most unsafe places in the world whilst their parents are allowed to live in the UK.

The revised guidance explicitly widens the ‘exceptional and compassionate circumstances’ in which to reunite these young people with their families, so it now includes children over the age of 18. This is a key theme of the Torn Apart campaign.

Visas should now be granted to adult children who would otherwise be:

“…left in a conflict zone or dangerous situation, and become destitute on their own; have no other relatives that they could live with or turn to for support in their country; [or] are not leading an independent life and the rest of the family intend to travel to the UK.”

This is a step forward. But we want to be sure that this change in guidance will translate into children being reunited with their families.

Not enough

One crucial caveat is that these visas will be issued outside immigration rules. The guidance is effectively only advice issued on behalf of the Home Office to those who assess family reunion cases. It allows them to use their discretion to grant a visa outside the rules.

We want the government to go further and enshrine the guidance in the rules. Only then can we be sure that errors of judgement don’t continue to leave families torn apart.

We are also calling for the Home Office to start collecting the data on who is applying for family reunion, as well as which cases are successful. The British Red Cross knows that just 65 visas have been granted outside the rules due to exceptional circumstances in the last three years.

Allowing young adults who were forced to flee their homes to reunite with their families should be the norm, not the exception.

Jonathan Ellis, our head of policy, advocacy and research said: "While we are pleased with the revised family reunion policy guidance, we will continue to use the Torn Apart campaign to advocate on behalf of young people who are needlessly kept separated from their families.

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