Where would you be
without your family?


Restrictive rules are keeping refugee families apart. Join the campaign to bring #FamiliesTogether.

© UNHCR/Annia Sakkab © UNHCR/Annia Sakkab

© UNHCR/Annia Sakkab

© UNHCR/Annia Sakkab

Imagine if you were forced to leave your family

War has destroyed everything that you know and forced you and your family to flee your home. During a traumatic escape, you become separated from your children and your elderly parents. You don’t know what’s happened to them.

You reach safety in the UK and are allowed to stay here. But your family are still in danger. The law means they can’t join you. You worry about them constantly – the uncertainty and stress mean you’re unable to rebuild your life.

This is the reality for many families torn apart by war and persecution. Restrictive rules keep refugees who reach the UK separated from their loved ones. People who have fled horrific experiences can be left alone and distraught, knowing that those they love still face untold dangers.

Under the current rules, refugee children can’t sponsor even their closest family to live with them in the UK; and elderly parents and children who are 18 or over can’t join their families here. This has devastating consequences for so many people – like Muhamed and Amal:

©UNHCR/Cengiz Yar ©UNHCR/Cengiz Yar

©UNHCR/Cengiz Yar

©UNHCR/Cengiz Yar

Muhammad and Amal's story

Muhammed and Amal are from Syria. They fled to Libya with their four children shortly after the conflict began. Life in Libya became increasingly dangerous while they were there and after two years Muhammed decided to make the journey to Europe.

Muhammed was granted refugee status in the UK. Aware that his son, Kusai, was due to turn 18 very soon, making him ineligible for family reunion, Muhammed immediately began the process of applying to bring his family to the UK. That application was rejected. Muhammed knew that his 20-year-old daughter, Athar, might not be accepted but also knew that, under family reunion law, he had the right to bring his wife and any children under the age of 18 to the UK. It turned out that the reason for the rejection was Kusai’s passport expiring while the family was in Libya. While awaiting that decision Kusai turned 18 and became ineligible for family reunion.

Muhammed appealed, and a judge ruled that while Muhammed’s wife and two youngest children were eligible for family reunion and could come to the UK, Kusai and Athar were rejected on the basis of being over 18 years old. While Athar has remained in the region, Kusai decided to take matters into his own hands and took the dangerous journey across the Mediterranean to a makeshift camp in unthinkable conditions in Calais*.

*Case study accurate as of May 2016

You can read a report by Oxfam and Refugee Council on the impact of family separation on refugees in the UK and other families' stories.

Bringing families together

Right now, we have the chance to help families like Muhamed and Amal's.

On 16 March 2018, MPs will be able to attend a debate in Parliament and vote to allow refugees in the UK to be joined by their close family.

This is the right thing to do. Easing the restrictive rules will help some of those forced to flee due to the global refugee crisis. They have lost their homes, been separated from their families and all that they know. Mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters who have been torn apart, lost everything and experienced so much, deserve a chance to rebuild their lives and have safe, happy futures together.

The FamiliesTogether campaign is calling for:

1.      Child refugees in the UK to have the right to sponsor their close family so they can rebuild their lives together and help them integrate in their new community

2.      The definition of who qualifies as family to be expanded so that young people who have turned 18 and elderly parents can live in safety with their families in the UK

3.      The reintroduction of legal aid so refugees who have lost everything have the support they need to afford and navigate the complicated process of being reunited with their families

How you can help

1.      Take action. Write to your MP to ask them to attend and support the Second Reading of the Refugees (Family Reunion) (No.2) Bill. And ask others to do the same.

2.      Attend the debate. If you are an MP, please attend and support the Second Reading of the Refugees (Family Reunion) (No. 2) Bill on 16 March and vote to allow refugees in the UK to be joined by their close family.

3.      Spread the word. Tell your supporters, colleagues and networks about Families Together by sharing this website or the resources below with the hashtag #FamiliesTogether. You can use the socialmedia campaign toolkit - including suggested posts and images - below.

©Aubrey Wade/Oxfam

Briefing for MPs

Download a briefing document for MPs

More information for MPs

More information on the Bill

More information on refugee family reunion

More information on current restrictions to refugee family reunion

MPs wishing to support the Bill

  • Contact us

To confirm your attendance at the debate on 16 March and your support for the Bill at second reading, or if you have any questions, please email parliament@amnesty.org.uk

  • Share these social media graphics

The Families Together coalition

Families Together is a coalition of organisations who helped Angus MacNeil MP to secure the Bill. Individuals and organisations from across the country have already pledged their support. Thousands of supporters have written to their MPs asking them to attend the debate on 16 March, many of whom have pledged to do so.

But the more of us that demand change with a united voice, the better our chances of bringing refugee families together safely in the UK.

Would you like to join the coalition?

To find out more about the campaign and/or to join the coalition, please email parliament@amnesty.org.uk

UPDATE

In March 2018 we saw a huge step forward for refugees in the UK who are desperate to be reunited with their families. Restrictive government rules are leaving refugees isolated, traumatised and alone in the UK, knowing that the people they love still face untold dangers in other countries. But on 16 March 2018, 129 MPs supported a Bill that will help keep families together, by proposing important changes to the rules that allow refugee families to reunite in the UK.

Thanks to calls from the UK public to change unfair rules, MPs showed true leadership. The fairer new rules we demanded will mean children don't have to grow up alone. They'll prevent young women being stranded in war zones, and elderly parents forced to fend for themselves.This isn't the final step. In the next few months we'll need more pressure than ever, to make sure that the changes to refugee family reunion rules become reality – and to help people rebuild their lives so they can have safe futures together.

The following 129 MPs voted in favour of the Refugee Family Reunion Bill on 16th March 2018:

The Rt Hon Diane Abbott MP - Labour Party - Hackney North and Stoke Newington

Ms Debbie Abrahams MP - Labour Party - Oldham East and Saddleworth

Ms Rushanara Ali MP - Labour Party - Bethnal Green and Bow

Ms Hannah Bardell MP - Scottish National Party (SNP) - Livingston

Ms Mhairi Black MP - Scottish National Party (SNP) - Paisley and Renfrewshire South

The Rt Hon Ian Blackford MP - Scottish National Party (SNP) - Ross, Skye and Lochaber

Ms Kirsty Blackman MP - Scottish National Party (SNP) - Aberdeen North

Mr Paul Blomfield MP - Labour Party - Sheffield Central

Sir Peter Bottomley MP - Conservative Party - Worthing West

Ms Deidre Brock MP - Scottish National Party (SNP) - Edinburgh North and Leith

Mr Alan Brown MP - Scottish National Party (SNP) - Kilmarnock and Loudoun

Ms Lyn Brown MP - Labour Party - West Ham

Ms Karen Buck MP - Labour Party - Westminster North

Mr Richard Burden MP - Labour Party - Birmingham, Northfield

Ms Dawn Butler MP - Labour Party - Brent Central

Ms Ruth Cadbury MP - Labour Party - Brentford and Isleworth

Mr Dan Carden MP - Labour Party - Liverpool, Walton

The Rt Hon Alistair Carmichael MP - Liberal Democrats - Orkney and Shetland

Mr Douglas Chapman MP - Scottish National Party (SNP) - Dunfermline and West Fife

Mr Bambos Charalambous MP - Labour Party - Enfield, Southgate

Ms Joanna Cherry QC MP - Scottish National Party (SNP) - Edinburgh South West

The Rt Hon Yvette Cooper MP - Labour Party - Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford

The Rt Hon Jeremy Corbyn MP - Labour Party - Islington North

Mr Neil Coyle MP - Labour Party - Bermondsey and Old Southwark

Dr Stella Creasy MP - Labour/Co-operative Party - Walthamstow

Dr Jon Cruddas MP - Labour Party - Dagenham and Rainham

Mr John Cryer MP - Labour Party - Leyton and Wanstead

Mr Jim Cunningham MP - Labour Party - Coventry South

The Rt Hon Sir Edward Davey MP - Liberal Democrats - Kingston and Surbiton

Mr Wayne David MP - Labour Party - Caerphilly

Mr Martyn Day MP - Scottish National Party (SNP) - Linlithgow and East Falkirk

Ms Marsha De Cordova MP - Labour Party - Battersea

Ms Thangam Debbonaire MP - Labour Party - Bristol West

Mr Martin Docherty-Hughes MP - Scottish National Party (SNP) - West Dunbartonshire

Dr Anneliese Dodds MP - Labour Party - Oxford East

Mr Stephen Doughty MP - Labour/Co-operative Party - Cardiff South and Penarth

Dr David Drew MP - Labour Party - Stroud

Ms Rosie Duffield MP - Labour Party - Canterbury

Mr Jonathan Edwards MP - Plaid Cymru - Carmarthen East and Dinefwr

Mr Clive Efford MP - Labour Party - Eltham

Mrs Louise Ellman MP - Labour/Co-operative Party - Liverpool, Riverside

Mr Tim Farron MP - Liberal Democrats - Westmorland and Lonsdale

The Rt Hon Frank Field MP - Labour Party - Birkenhead

Mr Jim Fitzpatrick MP - Labour Party - Poplar and Limehouse

Ms Colleen Fletcher MP - Labour Party - Coventry North East

Ms Vicky Foxcroft MP - Labour Party - Lewisham, Deptford

Ms Gill Furniss MP - Labour Party - Sheffield, Brightside and Hillsborough

Mr Hugh Gaffney MP - Labour Party - Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill

Mr Mike Gapes MP - Labour/Co-operative Party - Ilford South

Mr Barry Gardiner MP - Labour Party - Brent North

Ms Ruth George MP - Labour Party - High Peak

Mr Stephen Gethins MP - Scottish National Party (SNP) - North East Fife

Ms Patricia Gibson MP - Scottish National Party (SNP) - North Ayrshire and Arran

Ms Preet Kaur Gill MP - Labour Party - Birmingham, Edgbaston

Mr Roger Godsiff MP - Labour Party - Birmingham, Hall Green

Mr Patrick Grady MP - Scottish National Party (SNP) - Glasgow North

Mr Peter Grant MP - Scottish National Party (SNP) - Glenrothes

Mr Neil Gray MP - Scottish National Party (SNP) - Airdrie and Shotts

Ms Kate Green OBE MP - Labour Party - Stretford and Urmston

Ms Margaret Greenwood MP - Labour Party - Wirral West

Mr Andrew Gwynne MP - Labour Party - Denton and Reddish

Ms Louise Haigh MP - Labour Party - Sheffield, Heeley

Ms Carolyn Harris MP - Labour Party - Swansea East

Ms Helen Hayes MP - Labour Party - Dulwich and West Norwood

Mr Drew Hendry MP - Scottish National Party (SNP) - Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey

Ms Sharon Hodgson MP - Labour Party - Washington and Sunderland West

Mr Stewart Hosie MP - Scottish National Party (SNP) - Dundee East

Dr Rupa Huq MP - Labour Party - Ealing Central and Acton

Ms Sarah Jones MP - Labour Party - Croydon Central

Ms Liz Kendall MP - Labour Party - Leicester West

Mr Afzal Khan MP - Labour Party - Manchester, Gorton

Mr Ged Killen MP - Labour Party - Rutherglen and Hamilton West

Ms Lesley Laird MP - Labour Party - Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath

The Rt Hon David Lammy MP - Labour Party - Tottenham

Mr Chris Law MP - Scottish National Party (SNP) - Dundee West

Ms Karen Lee MP - Labour Party - Lincoln

Mr Angus MacNeil MP - Scottish National Party (SNP) - Na h-Eileanan an Iar

Mr Justin Madders MP - Labour Party - Ellesmere Port and Neston

Mr Gordon Marsden MP - Labour Party - Blackpool South

Mr Sandy Martin MP - Labour Party - Ipswich

Mr Steve McCabe MP - Labour Party - Birmingham, Selly Oak

Ms Kerry McCarthy MP - Labour Party - Bristol East

Mr Stewart Malcolm McDonald MP - Scottish National Party (SNP) - Glasgow South

Mr Stuart C. McDonald MP - Scottish National Party (SNP) - Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch East

The Rt Hon John McDonnell MP - Labour Party - Hayes and Harlington

Mr Conor McGinn MP - Labour Party - St Helens North

Ms Alison McGovern MP - Labour Party - Wirral South

Ms Carol Monaghan MP - Scottish National Party (SNP) - Glasgow North West

Ms Layla Moran MP - Liberal Democrats - Oxford West and Abingdon

Ms Lisa Nandy MP - Labour Party - Wigan

Mr Robert Neill MP - Conservative Party - Bromley and Chislehurst

Mr Gavin Newlands MP - Scottish National Party (SNP) - Paisley and Renfrewshire North

Mr Brendan O'Hara MP - Scottish National Party (SNP) - Argyll and Bute

Ms Kate Osamor MP - Labour/Co-operative Party - Edmonton

Mr Albert Owen MP - Labour Party - Ynys Môn

Ms Teresa Pearce MP - Labour Party - Erith and Thamesmead

Mr Matthew Pennycook MP - Labour Party - Greenwich and Woolwich

Mr Luke Pollard MP - Labour Party - Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport

Mr Stephen Pound MP - Labour Party - Ealing North

Ms Yasmin Qureshi MP - Labour Party - Bolton South East

Mr Steve Reed MP - Labour/Co-operative Party - Croydon North

Ms Ellie Reeves MP - Labour Party - Lewisham West and Penge

Mr Matt Rodda MP - Labour Party - Reading East

Ms Danielle Rowley MP - Labour Party - Midlothian

Mr Lloyd Russell-Moyle MP - Labour Party - Brighton, Kemptown

Ms Liz Saville Roberts MP - Plaid Cymru - Dwyfor Meirionnydd

Mr Tommy Sheppard MP - Scottish National Party (SNP) - Edinburgh East

Mr Gavin Shuker MP - Labour/Co-operative Party - Luton South

Mr Andy Slaughter MP - Labour Party - Hammersmith

Ms Cat Smith MP - Labour Party - Lancaster and Fleetwood

Ms Eleanor Smith MP - Labour Party - Wolverhampton South West

Mr Henry Smith MP - Conservative Party - Crawley

Mr Alex Sobel MP - Labour Party - Leeds North West

The Rt Hon Anna Soubry MP - Conservative Party - Broxtowe

Mr Chris Stephens MP - Scottish National Party (SNP) - Glasgow South West

Ms Jo Stevens MP - Labour Party - Cardiff Central

Mr Wes Streeting MP - Labour Party - Ilford North

Mr Paul Sweeney MP - Labour Party - Glasgow North East

Mr Mark Tami MP - Labour Party - Alyn and Deeside

Mr Nick Thomas-Symonds MP - Labour Party - Torfaen

The Rt Hon Stephen Timms MP - Labour Party - East Ham

Ms Catherine West MP - Labour Party - Hornsey and Wood Green

Dr Alan Whitehead MP - Labour Party - Southampton, Test

Mr Martin Whitfield MP - Labour Party - East Lothian

Dr Philippa Whitford  MP - Scottish National Party (SNP) - Central Ayrshire

Dr Paul Williams MP - Labour Party - Stockton South

Mr Chris Williamson MP - Labour Party - Derby North

Mr Peter Wishart MP - Scottish National Party (SNP) - Perth and North Perthshire

Mr Mohammad Yasin MP - Labour Party - Bedford

FAQs

This document sets out some of the arguments that may be made by government and parliamentarians against the provisions within the Family Reunion Bill, outlining counter-arguments and detail that supports the need for these new provisions.

© UNHCR/Christos Tolis © UNHCR/Christos Tolis

© UNHCR/Christos Tolis

© UNHCR/Christos Tolis

Resources

Write to your MP asking them to attend the Refugee Family Reunion debate on 16 March. Download a template letter.

Social media tool kit

Spread the word on your social channels with the hashtag #FamiliesTogether. Below is some suggested text and accompanying images.

Suggested social media post:

  • Will your MP speak up for refugees? We can reunite refugee families torn apart by war and persecution and feeling desperate. Urge your MP to support the Refugee Family Reunion Bill #FamiliesTogether http://bit.ly/2t9yJmD
  • Where would you be without your family? Help keep refugee #FamiliesTogether http://bit.ly/2FTt9r6
  • Imagine if you were offered protection from war and persecution but only if you leave behind loved ones. Unfair laws are forcing many in the UK to do just that. But, with your help, not for long. Tell your MP to vote to keep #FamiliesTogether on 16 March http://bit.ly/2t9yJmD
  • Life is on hold for families torn apart by violence and conflict. Urge your MP to speak up for refugees in Parliament on 16 March and help keep #FamiliesTogether http://bit.ly/2FTt9r6

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