12 July 2016
Amid an unprecedented refugee crisis in Europe, UK immigration rules are failing the most vulnerable children and families in the world.
Today the British Red Cross, along with partner organisations, hosted a parliamentary event focussing on how changes to those rules can help alleviate suffering.
Family reunification: making it work for the most vulnerable called for the Government to do more to reunite families safely and legally.
The event was hosted by David Burrowes MP and chaired by Craig Whittaker MP.
One family torn apart
One Syrian family, who have been kept apart from their eldest daughters by immigration rules, spoke about their experiences at the event. They were joined by Alex Fraser, our director of refugee support.
Their three eldest daughters are currently living alone outside the UK. They are unable to join their parents because they are over 18 years old.
Their father urged MPs to review the rules preventing his daughters from joining him.
The girls' mother told the audience how she couldn't sleep so scared was she for the safety of her daughters.
What is refugee family reunion?
Current family reunion rules do not apply to people 18 and over, meaning that many vulnerable young people who depend on their family are stranded overseas.
The rules also fail to recognise that after years of conflict, many children are orphaned. They may have grandparents, aunts and uncles or adult brothers and sisters in the UK who could care for them.
By widening the rules, the UK can ensure that children and young people living in conflict regions are reunited with their families safely and legally.
This would provide a safe alternative to risking their lives on dangerous journeys through Europe.
Mike Adamson, our chief executive said:
“The UK’s restrictive rules around refugee family reunion are leading to young people, including those who have just turned 18, being stranded in some of the most dangerous places in the world to fend for themselves – torn apart from their families at a time when they need each other the most.
“Refugee families, who have already been through more pain and trauma than most of us can ever imagine, deserve better than this.”
Many MPs have recognised the importance of refugee family reunion in providing safe and legal routes for people fleeing conflict, and the restrictive nature of the current rules.
This event is designed to build on this support. Attendees will hear first-hand accounts of how the refugee family reunion rules work for some but not for others.