Ambassadors from the Voices Network Respond to the New Plan for Immigration
April 28, 2021
On the 24 March 2021, the UK government published The New Plan for Immigration; a series of proposals including 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. This will include restricted family reunion rights for refugees who come to the UK via irregular routes (on a small boat or in a lorry).
We have received testimonies from the Voices Network ambassadors who were successful in their family reunion applications and have been successfully reunited with their families in the UK. The majority came to the UK via an irregular route and were then granted refugee status. This allowed them to apply for refugee family reunion, to bring their partners and children to live with them in the UK. Under the government’s new proposals, many of them would not have been eligible for family reunion. This risks leaving thousands of family members of refugees with little choice but to embark on dangerous journeys in order to be reunited with their family member(s) in the UK.
We asked members of the voices network about the importance of refugee family reunion and their concerns over the new proposals.
The UK government should develop a ‘safer’ route for refugee families to reunite by expanding the existing Family Reunion Rules rather than introducing inhumane and penalising new immigration rules. Refugees should not be penalised and made to stay separated indefinitely from their loved ones on the basis of the route they arrived to this country to claim asylum. I was forced to flee Afghanistan because of the conflict that continues to destroy the country and the consequent persecution I faced. I made a claim for asylum protection in the UK.
Leaving my wife and children and a promising career in humanitarian work behind me, I first entered the UK by plane on a visa and subsequently because of a change in my personal situation I claimed asylum. The impact of the family separation on my mental wellbeing was enormous. I was feeling suicidal. I now live happily with my family in the UK. My family’s reunification was possible because of the existing refugee family reunion route which I recommend should be further expanded, so that more refugee families are able to live together with their loved ones in the UK.
The new Immigration proposal, if implemented, would further restrict refugees’ access to family reunion by granting asylum seekers a Temporary Protection visa which would then prevent them from settling and force them to stay permanently separated from their families. The UK government should avoid implementing this policy. This policy would discriminate against already traumatised and vulnerable refugees who arrive in the UK through dangerous routes such as by lorry or a boat. These people are forced to take these dangerous routes due to the absence of ‘safer’ routes to reach safety.
The government’s refugee resettlement expansion proposal is good, but I do not think the resettlement programme alone can address the protection and family reunion needs of people fleeing conflicts and human rights persecutions. Because of the absence of safe routes people escaping persecution will continue taking any available routes to reach safety. Refugees should not be penalised on the basis of the route they arrived in the UK. The UK government should expand existing safe routes.
To read more about Anwar’s story click here