Baroness Ludfords Refugees (Family Reunion) Bill Passes its Second Reading

September 13, 2021

On Friday afternoon, the 10th of September, the second reading of Baroness Ludford’s Refugees (Family Reunion) bill passed its second reading in the house of Lords. The ongoing crisis in Afghanistan has highlighted the vital importance of the measures in the bill, which seek to ensure that more refugees can be joined by family members in the UK.

Currently, the family reunion rules state that adult refugees in the UK are only able to bring their spouse or dependent children under the age of 18 to live with them, and unaccompanied refugee children are unable to bring anyone. This means refugees are kept permanently apart from their closest relatives.

Often refugees are desperate to be reunited with their children who have turned 18, or elderly parents, or siblings. Being stopped from doing so means their time in the UK is one of constant worry, undermining their ability to move forwards with their lives and make a home here.

In her opening speech, Baroness Ludford stated ‘broadcasts from Afghanistan have highlighted the pertinence of family in the case of refugees. We have seen babies passed over barbed wire to soldiers and small children left behind in the chaos outside Kabul airport, and heard the many anguished accounts of those who could not locate their families in time to gather them together for an evacuation flight.’

Baroness Ludford highlighted the importance of refugee family reunion for improving the ‘chance of leading a stable, well-integrated life without threats to their well-being and mental health.’ She also spoke about the risk of family members being forced to take dangerous journeys to reunite with their loved ones under the proposed restrictions to refugee family reunion laid out in the Nationality and Borders bill; ‘the Nationality and Asylum Bill will radically restrict rights, including family reunion rights, for those who arrive irregularly, but this would undermine any attempt to close down irregular routes, since if someone cannot reach family through the reunion rules, they are likely to attempt an irregular route.

Baroness Brinton raised the issue of child sponsorship for unaccompanied refugee children. Under the current rules, unaccompanied children are not allowed to apply for their parents or siblings to join them in the UK. Baroness Brinton points out that ’The UK’s argument that this would encourage more children to travel has been contested by experts in this area. UNHCR, the Refugee Council, Amnesty International and Save the Children all have evidence of how not reuniting unaccompanied children causes anxiety, constant fear and, not surprisingly, mental health problems that will last their lifetimes.’ Being reunited with family members is vital for integrating into one’s local community. It is undoubtedly against the best interests of children to be permanently separated from their loved ones.

The Refugees (Family Reunion) bill is calling for an expansion of the current family reunion rules, so that more families can reunite with their loved ones and live in safety in the UK. The second reading debate highlighted the importance of refugee family reunion and the risks posed by the current restrictive rules.

The live debate can be found here;

The written transcript of the debate;