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Refugee family reunion: an almost happy ending

In the United Kingdom, 1,950 refugees have been able to be reunited with their families. However, they still struggle to get the right paperwork to stay in the country under the “hostile environment agenda”.


Marcella Via


Charities including Amnesty International UK, the British Red Cross, Oxfam and the Refugee Council are calling for a change in the restrictive rules on refugee family reunion. This topic is particularly important, as reuniting refugees with their families is an important step in helping them move out of a period of limbo and integrate into a new society.

Although 1,950 refugees have been reunited with their families, as reported by Home Office statistics, British charities are continuing to push for changes in the current law. At present, refugee children have no right to be reunited with their loved ones or siblings, and gaining access to legal support is extremely expensive.

The MP Angus MacNeil introduced a private Members’ Bill that would allow more refugee families to be reunited in safety.

Amnesty International UK reports that the main aims of the bill are, firstly, to expand the criteria of who qualifies as a family member for the purpose of refugee family reunification; secondly, to give unaccompanied refugee children the right to sponsor their family members to join them in the United Kingdom, under the refugee family reunion rule; and lastly, to reintroduce legal aid for refugee family reunion cases.

MPs supported the bill presented by MacNeil at its second reading and it will now move to committee stage. However, the immigration minister Caroline Nokes has said that the government is likely to block the bill, as it does not support its measures.

In fact, The Guardian reports that, according to Nokes, the bill would push people to attempt dangerous journeys to arrive to the United Kingdom.

Yet  Nokes’ argument has many contradictions: in a globalised context where  freedom of movement is not a reality for all, refugees already risk their lives to enter to Europe.

This is because border securitisation policies are built to block movements that local authorities deem “unauthorised”.

At the same time, in order to continue their journey, refugees often try to be smuggled, a practice that does not guarantee. Moreover, according to the European Parliament, around 63,251 cases of human trafficking have been detected in Europe. Of this figure, 54% of migrants are victims of sexual exploitation.

Forced migration cannot be criminalised or contained as it has negative consequences. This is why a change in current regulation needs to be made urgently. For further information, please contact Amnesty International media information at 0207 033 6404 (out of hours: 07721398984) or email Information is also available online at

(Photos: Pixabay)

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