Today 25 MPs attended a Westminster Hall Debate which offered a crucial opportunity for the government to announce a much needed change to its immigration rules. This would prevent children making dangerous journeys to Europe in an attempt to apply for family reunion under Dublin III – a mechanism that will likely no longer involve the UK once we leave the EU. Since September 2017 Unicef UK has been campaigning on this issue and has seen important progress made, including through cross-party support for an amendment to the EU Withdrawal Bill, led by Nicky Morgan MP and Tim Loughton MP. Despite 70,000 members of the public calling on the Home Secretary to make this change, the government is still failing to act.
Sadly, the opportunity to create real change through a commitment to changing the refugee family reunion rules was missed. The Minister for Immigration, Caroline Nokes, asked for MPs and NGOs to ‘continue working with Government to build on existing family reunion policy to ensure more families are reunited quickly, safely and legally possible.’
Lily Caprani, Deputy Executive Director at Unicef UK, said:
“Today the Government acknowledged the urgent need for a solution that prevents child refugees and migrants making deadly journeys to reach relatives in the UK. But by failing to commit to a small, vital amendment to the UK’s Refugee Family Reunion Rules, they have yet again missed an opportunity to protect some of the most vulnerable children in the world.
“When you’ve lost your home, your family are your home. From the younger brother facing forcible recruitment by armed forces, to the granddaughter surviving alone in the bombed-out shell of her family home, every day children have no choice but to put their lives in the hands of criminals to try to reach the protection of family in the UK.
“Children whose lives are at risk cannot afford to wait any longer; MPs from across party divides made clear today that we must move past platitudes and act now. This was an opportunity for the Government to be on the front foot before the European system is likely to end and it is deeply disappointing it has not been taken.”
Unicef is the world’s leading organisation for children, promoting the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere.
Unicef UK raises funds to protect children in danger, transform their lives and build a safer world for tomorrow’s children. As a registered charity we raise funds through donations from individuals, organisations and companies and we lobby and campaign to keep children safe. Unicef UK also runs programmes in schools, hospitals and with local authorities in the UK. For more information please visit unicef.org.uk