Please distribute through your networks and amongst your colleagues. With apologies for cross-posting. A letter from Kama Petruczenko, Advocacy Network Co-ordinator Refugee Council
You may know that the Refugee Council, together with partner organisations, Amnesty International UK, British Red Cross, Oxfam UK, UNHCR UK, is campaigning for the immigration rules to be changed to make it easier for refugee families to reunite.
We can only imagine what people have fled, but we can help them rebuild their future and bring their families back together. We know that for refugees who have been through so much, rebuilding their lives and integrating in new unfamiliar communities is much more likely if their families are with them. Unfortunately, restrictive government rules are leaving them isolated, traumatised and alone in the UK, knowing that the people they love still face untold dangers in other countries.
With help from our supporters, we have been able to work with Angus MacNeil MP to introduce a Bill on refugee family reunion. If the Bill is to succeed we need more than 100 MPs to attend the debate and support the Bill at its second reading on Friday 16th March 2018.
We know that MPs diaries are filling up quickly, moreover, since the second reading takes place on a Friday, as you know, many MPs will be back in their constituencies. It seems like a long way away, however we need your support now. We would like to ask you to contact your MPs, either as an organisation or as an individual and ask them to save the date: to be present in Parliament on 16th March and to support our Family Reunion Bill.
Getting involved and helping us with this important campaign is simple and easy. You can use our website, where after typing in your postcode, you will see who your local MP is, you will also have a draft of the letter ready to send. Details here: https://action.refugeecouncil.org.uk/savethedate . It will take less than 5 minutes but could make a huge change in the lives of refugees who wish to reunite with their loved ones. I would also like to encourage you to personalise this message, for example you can add information based on your personal or professional experience, we know that MPs pay more attention to messages which have a personal touch to them.
By voting, on 16th March to reunite refugee families, our MPs can show true leadership and help refugees rebuild their lives. These fairer new rules would stop children having to grow up alone, without their family in the UK, young women being stranded in war zones and elderly parents left to fend for themselves.
- Please get in touch with me (on Kama.Petruczenko@RefugeeCouncil.org.uk ) if you have any questions about approaching your local MPs and discussing the Family Reunion Bill with them.
- Please let me know when your MP confirms their attendance on 16th March.
What is Family Reunion and what are we calling for?
Separation of families can have a devastating impact on peoples’ lives, their rehabilitation from experiences of trauma and their ability to integrate and adapt to their country of asylum. We consider the current rules on refugee family reunion to be unfair and restrictive. The only family members explicitly allowed to join adult refugees in the UK are their spouse/partner and their dependent children who are under the age of 18. Unaccompanied children who are found to be refugees have no right to reunite with even their closest family members.
We are calling for:
- Child refugees in the UK having the right to sponsor their family so they can rebuild their lives together and help them integrate in their new community
- An expansion of who qualifies as family so that young people who have turned 18 and elderly parents can live in safety with their families in the UK
- The reintroduction of legal aid so refugees who have lost everything have the support they need to afford and navigate the complicated process of being reunited with their families.
How to engage your local MP?
We have a cross-party support from many MPs, but we need more of them to come on board. Sending a letter to your MP helps a lot, but if you already have an established channel of communication with your MP you might also like to consider arranging a meeting with him/her, in order to make sure they will attend the debate on 16th March 2018 and speak up for refugee families.
This is just the beginning of the national campaign, there will be many more opportunities for people and organisations to get involved. Please stay in touch if you would like to help us reunite refugee families in the UK.
Thank you for your help and for your time.
Together we can make this change a reality,
Advocacy Network Co-ordinator
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