I appreciate that concerns have been raised about family reunion rules, the effectiveness of their implementation, and that a number of organisations have also called for there to be an expansion of the criteria.
I agree that more needs to be done to reunite families and I share concerns about the efficiency of the processes in place for those who are entitled to join family in the UK, particularly children. As we know, unaccompanied migrant children are highly vulnerable to trafficking, sexual exploitation and other forms of abuse.
In the last Parliament, during the passage of the Immigration Act 2016, a number of attempts were made to review the rules around family reunion for refugees including options for extending the criteria. It is incredibly disappointing that the Government rejected these proposals and reiterated that it has no plans to extend the family reunion criteria.
If a child refugee has been granted the right to be here, I support that right also being granted to their parents or carers. I also believe that children who grew up in this country with a parent who has a right to be here, should be allowed this right even after they turn 18. This would allow child refugees to be reunited with their families, and end the terrible practice of deporting children who grew up in the UK to countries which they often know nothing about.
The manifesto I stood on at the General Election last year promised to produce a cross-departmental strategy to meet our international obligations on the refugee crisis, and I hope this is something that the Government will consider. I believe we need effective action to alleviate the refugee crisis and continue to uphold the proud British tradition of honouring the spirit of international law and our moral obligations by taking our fair share of refugees.
I know that a Private Members’ Bill has been introduced to Parliament with proposals on these issues and that this is currently scheduled to be debated on 16 March in the House of Commons. I support this Bill, as I want to allow refugees to live fulfilling lives in the UK, and to avoid the perverse situation where children are brought up in our care system instead of being reunited in the UK with close family who currently live in danger abroad.