Concern over family members overseas is hampering refugees from settling in UK, finds study

Written by Liam Kirkaldy on 31 January 2018 in News

With MPs considering changing UK policy on family reunion, Oxfam and the Refugee Council released a study showing how anxiety over loved ones at risk overseas was leaving refugees in the UK unable to focus on finding work, making friends or learning English

Image credit: PA

Concern over family members in danger overseas is hampering refugees from settling into the UK, according to new research by Oxfam and the Refugee Council.

With MPs considering changing UK policy on family reunion, to allow over 18s to be reunited with families in the UK, Oxfam and the Refugee Council released a study showing how anxiety over loved ones at risk overseas was leaving refugees in the UK unable to focus on finding work, making friends or learning English.

Current rules only allow adult refugees to be reunited with their spouses and children younger than 18.

But a private members bill, introduced by Angus MacNeil, would allow child refugees to sponsor their parents and siblings under the age of 25 and for adult refugees to be able to sponsor their parents, their children under the age of 25, and their siblings under the age of 25.

The Bill would also reintroduce legal aid for refugee family reunion.

Maurice Wren, chief executive of the Refugee Council, said: “As this report makes crystal clear, refugee families living in the UK are just like most other families in the UK: the safety of their loved ones is of utmost importance. The evidence is clear: reuniting refugee families gives them the best chance of living settled and fulfilling lives.

“Denying them the chance to restore their family ties condemns then to a future of anguish and guilt, with the anxiety of separation undermining their mental health. We urge the government to do better by refugees and amend the unfair, restrictive UK rules that prevent refugee families from being reunited just when they need each other the most.”

The Refugee Family Reunion Bill, expected to be introduced to the House of Commons in March, is supported by a coalition of five organisations: Amnesty International UK, British Red Cross, Oxfam, Refugee Council and UNHCR.

Sally Copley, Oxfam’s head of policy, programmes and campaigns, said: “We all know how important family is when it comes to feeling safe, loved and secure. Most people would be shocked to discover that families are being torn apart simply because a brother or sister is over 18 and therefore not eligible to join their parents and siblings in the UK.

“Refugees want to be able to play an active role in their communities and be able to learn English, but all too often they face pointless hurdles because of a system that keeps them separated from their family.  This in turns destroys their confidence to go out, make friends and be part of their community. As this study shows, it is not only harmful but also damaging to their chances of integrating successfully.”

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