SNP MP's bid to reunite refugee families clears major hurdle

Brunilde Fioravanti
Marzo 18, 2018

MPs today voted in favour of a private member's bill which would allow child refugees to sponsor relatives to join them and would restore legal aid in such cases in England and Wales.

The bill from Angus MacNeil, SNP MP for Na h-Eileanan an Iar, titled "the Refugees (Family Reunion) Bill", received cross-party backing from 129 MPs, taking it one step closer to becoming law.

If passed, it would allow a wider range of family members to be reunited with refugees already living in the United Kingdom, and give them financial support to take claims to court.

Na h-Eileanan an Iar MP Angus MacNeil said: "I'm delighted that this bill which seeks to reunite refugee families has passed its first major hurdle in Westminster, and is one step closer to ensuring that refugee families are no longer cut off from each other due to the United Kingdom government's inhumane and strict immigration rules".

Currently, the UK Government's rules prevent refugees in Britain from being reunited with anyone other than their partner or children under 18. It would also reintroduce legal aid so that refugees who have lost everything can afford to navigate the complicated process of being reunited with their families.

MacNeil continued: "More than half of the world's refugees are children; young people who - having fled hell on earth - are searching for ways to rebuild their lives". It is a Bill that puts compassion first and seeks to bring to an end the callous approach of the United Kingdom government which has kept refugee children away from their parents, siblings and wider family. "It's clear that this issue isn't about party politics, it's about doing the right thing and it was pretty obvious to all of us that families belong together and that children belong with their parents".

"Today marks a welcome step forward for many refugees in the United Kingdom who are desperate to be reunited with their loved ones".

"I'm still living here alone, while my sister is stuck in a camp in Ethiopia".

The proposed law is backed by a coalition of organisations, including the Refugee Council, UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, Amnesty International, the British Red Cross, Oxfam and Student Action for Refugees (STAR). The camp isn't safe and she is a girl on her own - I am scared she might be hurt.

The Refugee Council's chief executive, Maurice Wren, said the vote offered "a glimmer of hope to refugee families" and it was vital MPs supported the bill through its later stages.

"Those who - with all good intention - try to promote and encourage alternative pathways to the United Kingdom could be putting the people they are trying to help in danger", she told the Times.

Amnesty International UK director Kate Allen said: "There are hundreds of child refugees in the UK who have arrived alone. As the Bill continues its journey through parliament we hope that MPs continue to show their support and send a message to the Government that child refugees in this country have the right to be reunited with their families".

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