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New Report from Families Together

Refugee Family Reunification in the UK: Challenges and Prospects

The Families Together Coalition has published a new research report on Refugee Family Reunification in the UK: Challenges and Prospects, which is now available. The report provides a comprehensive analysis of the complexities of the legal and policy framework for refugee family reunification in the UK and of the challenges faced by refugees seeking to be reunited with their families in the UK.

The report was researched and written by a team of academics and professionals in the refugee sector based at the Centre for Research in Law of the University of Bedfordshire, with the support of a grant from the Families Together Programme, administered by the British Red Cross.

Building on the insights gained from experts in the field, practitioners and caseworkers, as well as the experiences of refugees who have navigated the family reunion process in recent years, the report details

  • the legal and policy obstacles to the reunification of refugee families,
  • the inconsistencies and fallacies of the decision-making process in respect of family reunion applications
  • and the difficulties faced by the refugee sector in coping with the demand for assistance following the withdrawal of legal aid for family reunion cases.

The report recognises the positive developments which have taken place in recent years, particularly as a result of the Home Office “onshoring” programme, which has resulted in family reunion applications being processed by a dedicated team of Home Office caseworkers based in the UK. At the same time, it highlights the many persistent problems with the current system. Notably, it calls for a radical change in the Home Office’s approach to refugee family reunification, which fully recognises the nature of refugee family reunion as a protection matter. The report highlights that family reunification is not only a fundamental right of refugees and an instrument to facilitate their full integration in the UK, but that it also constitutes a fundamental pathway by which their family members left behind in often precarious or outright dangerous situations may reach safety and protection. With this in mind, the report recommends, in particular:

  • The adoption of a broader understanding of the notion of family, to include at least young adult children and siblings under the age of 25;
  • The extension of the right to sponsor family reunion to refugee children;
  • The introduction of an additional category of eligible family members, based not on defined grades of relationship but on the existence of a factual situation of dependency;
  • In the decision-making process, the adoption of a realistic and compassionate approach to evidentiary matters, which recognises the difficulties often faced by refugees in supplying documentary evidence;
  • Recognition of the inherent complexity of refugee family reunification applications and the consequent need to reinstate legal aid for family reunion cases, to ensure that all refugees can benefit from qualified legal support.

Families Together have also submitted evidence to the Joint Committee on Human Rights Legislative Scrutiny of the Nationality and Borders Bill. see the submission on their Briefings and Resources Page. can be found at the top of this page;