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Support the right to family life

The Refugee (Family Reunion) Bill will be debated by MPs this week. Jessica Metheringham outlines the importance of the bill and how people can take action today.

Image: Thomas Hawk (CC BY-NC 2.0)
Image: Thomas Hawk (CC BY-NC 2.0)

On 16 March, MPs will debate the rules on family reunion for refugees. Currently unaccompanied child refugees cannot sponsor their parents to come to the UK. Adult refugees may be joined by a partner and dependent children under 18 years of age.

Siblings are not counted as close family members. Exceptions to these rules are only made at the discretion of Home Office decision-makers.

Change the family reunion rules

The bill proposes three things that would make family reunion easier. Firstly, the definition of a family member would widen to include siblings. Secondly, the bill has no income or age limit. This means that unaccompanied child refugees can act as a sponsor for their parents. Thirdly, it reinstates legal aid for refugee cases of family reunion.

Safe but not Settled (PDF) is a joint report by the Refugee Council and Oxfam about ongoing forced separation. The report collects personal stories and evidence about refugees, family separation and integration. The bill would make the rules affecting these families less restrictive. It would help unite families and support positive integration.

Quaker commitment to sanctuary

As Quakers we believe that there is that of God in everyone. Our Sanctuary Everywhere programme works to create a culture of welcome and hospitality. We are also working towards changing the laws creating a 'hostile environment' that push people from migrant and refugee communities into destitution, detention and deportation. It is our duty to remember the humanity of all and to provide sanctuary to all. It cannot be morally right to keep families apart when we have the ability to reunite them.

People fleeing war or starvation should not be forced to choose between their family and their safety. Refugees granted the right to stay in the UK should be able to sponsor family members to join them.

Pass this bill in Parliament

100 MPs need to support the bill for it to reach the next stage of the legislative process. This is a Private Member's Bill, proposed by an individual MP, not the government. It is unlikely to become law without a lot of public support. And even if it doesn't become an Act, it could become legislation by being incorporated into the next Immigration Bill.

Ask your MP to support the Family Reunion Bill on 16 March. Use our letter template (Word) to contact your MP.

Find your MP's details using TheyWorkForYou.com and read the full text of the bill online.

Find out more about Sanctuary Meetings