Argyll and Bute MP Brendan O’Hara has pledged his support for the Private Member’s Bill on refugee family reunion following a campaign by Families Together.
The rules mean that some people with family members in the UK – including children who have turned 18 and elderly parents – often find themselves facing an impossible choice: remain in what can often be an insecure and dangerous place, or embark on a treacherous, expensive, unregulated journey, often in the hands of smugglers.
The rules also prevent child refugees in this country from sponsoring even their closest family members to join them, making the UK one of only two EU countries to deny refugee children the chance to grow up with their family.
The Refugee (Families Reunion) Bill debate today (Friday 16 March) has the power to change this. If the Bill were to pass its second reading, it would bring the UK one step closer to undoing this wrong.
The Bill calls for:
Child refugees in the UK having the right to sponsor their close family so they can rebuild their lives together and help them integrate in their new community;
An expansion of who qualifies as a family so that young people who have turned 18 and elderly parents can live in safety with their families in the UK;
The reintroduction of legal aid so refugees can afford to navigate the complicated process of being reunited with their families.
Ahead of the debate, Mr O’Hara said:
“Refugees should have the right to be with their family, the people they love, know them best and make them feel safe. But tragically, every single day refugee families already torn apart by conflict and war are being kept apart by restrictive UK rules. This urgently needs to change. I will be attending the Private Member’s Bill vote on 16 March and voting to bring refugee families together again.”
Kate Allen, Director of Amnesty International UK, said:
“Amnesty welcomes Mr O’Hara’s commitment to safely reuniting refugees with their families in the UK. Child refugees are some of the most vulnerable in the UK. On their arrival they face a multitude of new struggles – a new language and culture, as well as the psychological fallout from suffering incredibly traumatic experiences back in their home country. It is perverse that families are being kept apart by arbitrary rules. This is not a political issue, it is a family issue. We now hope that MPs from across the political spectrum continue to show their support and send a message to the Government that refugees in this country should be reunited with their families.”
The SNP MP for the Western Isles Angus MacNeil’s Private Member’s Bill is supported by Families Together, a coalition of organisations including Amnesty International, STAR Network, Refugee Council, UNHCR and the British Red Cross amongst others.