UK urged to help more refugees using family networks
A group of organisations are urging the UK government to change the rules around reuniting refugee families as a way of offering a safe haven to more vulnerable people.
In the report 'Together Again: reuniting refugee families in safety,' Oxfam, the British Refugee Council, the British Red Cross and Amnesty International argue that by allowing those granted refugee status in the UK to bring their spouses or children to the country, the UK government could offer sanctuary to more vulnerable refugees.
They pointed out that refugee children could be supported by their adult siblings, grandparents, aunts or uncles who already live in the UK, thereby taking pressure off local authorities.
According to a press release by Oxfam, the government claimed earlier this month that local authorities did not have the capacity to support any more unaccompanied children to come to the UK.
This came after the government announced it would be ending the Dubs amendment scheme introduced last year to welcome some of the thousands living in neglected refugee camps in Europe.
Only 350 children will benefit from the scheme, Oxfam said.
"The UK Government first tried to ignore the refugee crisis in Europe and then seemed more focused on deterring people in need from coming to the UK rather than offering a safe haven," said Mark Goldring, Oxfam's Chief Executive.
"Many people were shocked when the Government rowed back from the Dubs amendment's promise on unaccompanied children."
"So much suffering could have been avoided if the government had adopted more humane measures."
Goldring added that the four agencies were calling on the UK authorities to change their restrictive policies, keep families together and save children and other vulnerable refugees from dangerous camps, such as Calais.
The 12 recommendations made by the agencies for the UK government include expanding the criteria of who qualifies as a family member to include siblings, young adults dependent on the family unit, parents, in-laws, and other dependent relatives.
They also include allowing unaccompanied children granted refugee status in the UK to bring family members to the country under the family reunion policy.
"It is a fact that war and persecution frequently divides refugee families so it's utterly contemptible that heartless Government policies keep families apart regardless of the danger they may be in," said British Refugee Council Chief Executive Maurice Wren.
"No child should be prevented from growing up without their parents; no family should be forced to make impossible choices between spending a lifetime apart or placing their lives in the hands of smugglers.
"The Government must do much more to enable refugees to escape danger and rebuild their lives together with their loved ones in the UK."