Families Together response to Ukraine Family Scheme
March 29, 2022
By introducing the Ukraine Family Scheme, the government has demonstrated that it is possible to expand existing immigration rules to support refugees to reunite with their loved ones – where there is the political will.
The Ukraine Family Scheme expands an existing family visa route, which allows the family members of British nationals and people with settled status in the UK to apply to join them in the UK.
Ukrainian nationals are now able to apply to join UK-based immediate and extended family members, including adult children, grandparents, siblings, cousins, aunts, uncles, nieces and nephews. Find out more information about the Ukraine Family Scheme.
But these rights have not been extended to other refugees. Currently, refugee children in the UK do not have the right to sponsor any family members to join them. They are forced to live permanently separated from their parents, their brothers and their sisters.
For adult refugees, eligibility for refugee family reunion is very restrictive, meaning that people cannot reunite with their adult children or their elderly parents.
The Families Together Coalition is calling on the government to give refugee children the right to sponsor their family members to join them. We are also calling for the current, narrow definition of ‘family’ to be expanded.
The Ukraine Family Scheme shows that this government recognises that refugees need their families. And it shows that the demands of the Families Together Coalition are implementable and achievable.
But right now the government is actually seeking to restrict family reunion for refugees. The government’s Nationality and Borders Bill, which is in its final phases, threatens to restrict family reunion still further for refugees who are forced to make their own way to the UK.
The crisis in the Ukraine must force the government to think again. Refugees need their families. We know this, and the government knows it too.
The Ukraine Family Scheme shows how quickly and how easily the government can act to prevent painful family separation. We must see the same rights put in place to allow any refugees to reunite with extended family members in the UK, wherever they come from and however they travel. Forcing people to live apart from their loved ones is cruel and unfair. Every refugee matters.