Family Reunion Integration Service
Helping reunited families thrive in the UK.
The Family Reunion Integration Service (FRIS) is the first national programme to support reunited refugee families to integrate into their new communities. So far, it has supported around 4,000 refugee families.
The programme runs in ten locations across the UK:
This project supports people after they come to the UK. If you need help with family reunion applications, please contact your nearest refugee services team. Or, you can find out more about refugee family reunion here.
The right to family reunion
People who have been separated by war, conflict or natural disaster have the right to be reunited with their families. Often, one or two family members will leave their home country first to seek safety abroad as a refugee. Our refugee and family reunion services can then help them bring over their other family members, often their wives and children.
The reunion of a family is often a joyous time. But then, newly reunited families can find themselves on their own. There is little formal support to help them use our complex health, education, housing and welfare services. The family reunion integration service exists to fill that gap.
How we support families
The family reunion integration project offers families support to access their basic needs once their family arrive in the UK. This includes help to access:
- welfare benefits
- schools for children
- registering with a GP.
In some areas, FRIS also offers social integration activities to support family's integration into their local area through the following:
Rebuilding family bonds
Refugee sponsors have access to a peer support hub before and after the arrival of the family they will be supporting. A trained practitioner also provides sessions on psychological and emotional support so they can learn useful skills in advance.
Bridges with the host community
A host buddy scheme supports people to integrate into UK life. This includes language holidays, where locals and refugees take weekend trips to explore a third, unknown, language together. This brings about a shared experience of not being able to fall back on a mutual language. Community organisations also provide shared activities for reunited families.
Building community bonds
A peer buddy scheme and a peer befriending and education programme support reunited families. Together, people work on getting oriented in their communities and learning skills they need for life in the UK.
Sharing lessons learned through research
Previous partnerships within FRIS have supported learning and enriched the service that we now offer.
Through our collaboration with Barnardo’s child specialists, we explored how focusing on children during the integration process can affect the wider family. Our academic partner, Queen Margaret University, published research that provides evidence of the impact of social connections on people’s experience of integration.
The service has also provided high-quality, national evidence to help anyone in the field give the best support to reunited refugee families. This has enabled us to:
- compare what works best, including insights from all the UK countries and different local authorities
- share best practice with local authorities, the government and other support organisations, including through policy briefings
- provide specialist training
- learn more about children’s experience of arriving in the UK through family reunion through Barnardo's research.
We have now published our findings through the Red Cross and Queen Margaret University:
- Together at last: supporting refugee families who reunite in the UK, a research report that highlights how simple changes would help refugee families to get the support they need to build a life in the UK.
- Pathways and Potentialities: the role of social connections in the integration of reunited refugee families, Research Findings and Implications (PDF), a research report by Queen Margaret University exploringintegration as a journey and the five stages of social connections.
- ‘Step by step’: the role of social connections in reunited refugee families’ navigation of statutory systems, an article on families' accounts of navigating statutory systems.
The family reunion integration project team held five webinars for practitioners to provide interactive and engaging discussion about the issues faced by families and practitioners. They also gave people the opportunity to hear from key stakeholders on their experience of the family reunion processes.
The first webinar focused on integration of refugee families into the UK. As a panel discussion with key people involved in the project, it offers an opportunity to link people's experiences to findings from the project and its advocacy targets: Speakers include:
- Phil Arnold, British Red Cross head of refugee support, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, and FRIS sponsor: introduction to the webinar programme, the FRIS project and this session
- Zainnab Makele, UNHCR keynote speaker: an overview of Refugee Family Reunion putting it in strategic context of current migration issues
- A VOICES Ambassador: reflections on experience of refugee family reunion (with a focus on arrival into the UK, family relationships, and integrating into UK and local area
- Bryony Nisbet, Queen Margaret University (QMU): presentation of findings on social connections and contextualising within refugee family integration
- Jon Featonby, British Red Cross policy and advocacy manager: presentation of the FRIS advocacy report and advocacy plans going forward
- Kieron Hardie, FRIS project manager: facilitator of the session, including panel discussion findings and key recommendations in partnership working with external speakers and ambassadors from our VOICES network
Please scroll down for links to the other webinars in this series, which cover:
- welfare benefits
- children and school.
The webinars also share findings and key recommendations from our research report, Together at last: supporting refugee families who reunite in the UK. These were held in partnership with external speakers and VOICES ambassadors.
This project was part funded by the EU Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund. Making management of migration flows more efficient across the European Union.
Please get in touch if you would like more information about the Family Reunion Integration Services. This project is only able to support families after arrival to UK. Please contact the British Red Cross family reunion service if you need support bringing your family to the UK.