Help refugees in the UK realise their family reunion rights

When I saw my family at the airport, it was like being transported to a fantasy world. I dropped my bag and threw my arms around them. To see them again was the best thing that has ever happened.” Aimee Ntabarusha Mungu, who escaped from the Congo.

Divided families

During the refugee experience, the family unit is often separated. Family members may flee along different routes, or separation may be used as a strategy to protect a vulnerable member, for example, by sending them somewhere for safety.

Being reunited with family members is often a top priority once an asylum seeker has been granted status to remain in the UK. People granted refugee status or humanitarian protection have the right to be reunited under the UK Border Agency’s family reunion programme.

 British Red Cross research on the family reunion of refugees in the UK

The British Red Cross is carrying out research to investigate whether the needs of refugees seeking to exercise their family reunion rights are being met by existing humanitarian support and provision. A key part of this research is to map current support services, and understand the multiple factors that help or hinder access to family reunion.

The British Red Cross plans to use the findings from our research to contribute to the development of their service delivery work with refugees, as well as to inform advocacy and policy debates on family reunion.

 How you can help

So what are your thoughts on family reunion for refugees in the UK?

  • What do you feel currently works well during the family reunion process to help refugees successfully reunite with their families?
  • What do you feel are the main challenges faced by refugees trying to reunite with their families?
  • What support do you think is required to help refugees overcome these challenges?

You can enter your thoughts on the blog below, though it would be useful for you to identify whether you are a refugee, an advisor, a solicitor etc.

If you have been granted refugee status, humanitarian protection, or indefinite leave to remain in the UK, the British Red Cross would also like to telephone you for a short interview about family reunion. Your responses are voluntary, and will be kept private.

If you are interested in being interviewed, please contact Kimberley Rennick, research assistant at the British Red Cross. You can:

Please note that participation in this research will not affect the support you may currently receive from the British Red Cross, Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants, or other organisations. It will also not affect your family reunion application if you currently have one underway.

About jcwi

Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants is a key campaigning voice in the field of immigration, asylum and nationality law and policy. It is completely independent from government funding, remaining entirely free from government influence. View all posts by jcwi

6 responses to “Help refugees in the UK realise their family reunion rights

  • Laurie Ray

    I work for, PAFRAS, an organisation supporting asylum applicants and refugees in Leeds. I’d be interested to know whether you know of any way in which someone is unable to work fulltime due to an injury (and therefore support his children in the UK) would be able to be reunited with them. He was granted leave under the case resolution process (i.e. outside of the immigration rules) and therefore – in my understanding – is not entitled to normal refugee family reunion.

    • jcwi

      Hi, we can’t advise on individual cases through this blog as we just don’t have the capacity to do so, but there are various issues to consider here including A8 ECHR, you should make a referral to a an advisor/solicitor in the area who will be able to advise on the basis of individual circumstances. But thanks for raising this anyway as it demonstrates a particular problem for those who have gone through that process.

  • Farouq Ginwalla

    I work with asylum seekers and refugees at GARAS in Gloucester, having done quite a few family reunions which have all gone quite smoothly. I have a problem currently in that someone who has been granted refugee status cannot bring his wife and child over because the authorities in his country will not issue a passport or a travel document to them because of his political affiliation. i have tried to contact the embassy in the country of question to issue a UFF (uniform format form), but they have declined as the nationals are living in the country of their nationality. What can be done?

  • Pangallion (@pangallion)

    I think it’s a great idea to try and reunite refugees with their families. The sooner we can safely send them back to the country they came from so they can see their family again the better. Until then their relatives should have absolutely no automatic right to come to the UK.

    • jcwi

      So, Pengallion, refugees should be kept apart from their families until ‘we can safely send them back to their countries’ – in many cases that will deny people the right to see their children grow up, see relatives before they die, and deny them the right to a family life. Many countries do not become ‘safe’ for many many years, to deny the right to family reunion is inhumane.

  • Worker

    Hi I work with people seeking asylum here in the North East of England and am appalled at the treatment of people awarded their stay under the Legacy programme as this effectively waives their right to reunion even if ther family was on theri claim. It often is the case that those who were children before their parents sought asylum are now adults and as such have no chance of reunion.
    In one of the cases it has proven to be even more difficult even for this person to visit their child as the South African authorities declined entry to them and would give no reason for doing so. They in fact had no reason to refuse that we could see.
    I think thast given that the Legacy programme is a direct result of the inefficiency of the UKBA why should parents and children bear the brunt of this?
    Jacqui
    my work email is jacqui.lovell@developingpartners.org.uk if you want further information re any of the above.

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