New Plan for Immigration – Full briefing

April 16, 2021

The Government’s New Plan for Immigration proposes sweeping changes that undermine how the
UK fulfils its international obligations to those seeking asylum, most notably by proposing
differential treatment according to the way a refugee arrived in the UK. It proposes that for
someone who is recognised as being in need of international protection, the type of leave and the
entitlements that come with it will depend on how that person entered the UK. This will include
whether they are eligible for refugee family reunion. We are appalled to see proposals
which would restrict access to family reunion for some refugees.

The New Plan for Immigration, published on 24 March 2021, states that between 2015 and 2019,
29,000 people were able to come to the UK through existing refugee family reunion rules. This is
4,000 more people than the number who were resettled in the UK during the same period, thus
highlighting that family reunion is currently the most accessed safe route. Of the 29,000 visas
granted, 90% of them were given to women and children. The government proposals would
prevent thousands of vulnerable women and children from entering the UK, removing a safe and
regular route from some of the most vulnerable persons. Rather than restricting family reunion
rights for some refugees, the government should be seeking to increase access to family reunion
for all refugees, regardless of how they entered the UK.

Many families are displaced, living in precarious situations and have protection concerns
themselves. The two-tier asylum system outlined in the proposals would mean that the majority
of people who claim asylum in the UK are excluded from applying for family reunion or deterred
from doing so. The new proposals would leave families who have been separated by war, violence
and persecution facing dangerous journeys in order to be together again. If the government are
serious in their ambition to expand ‘Safe’ routes they must not implement the proposed
changes and should seek to change the existing family reunion rules, as per our recommendations
below, so that more people can access this vital, existing safe route.

What we are calling for

  1. Expand the criteria of who qualifies as a family member for the purposes of refugee family reunion allowing adult refugees in the UK to sponsor their adult children and siblings who are under the age of 25; and their parents
  2. Give unaccompanied refugee children in the United Kingdom the right to sponsor their parents and siblings who are under the age of 25 to join them under the refugee family reunion rules
  3. Reintroduce legal aid for all refugee family reunion cases