Refugees (Family Reunion) (No.2) Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 10:43 am on 16th March 2018.

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Photo of David Warburton David Warburton Conservative, Somerton and Frome 10:43 am, 16th March 2018

Absolutely. My hon. Friend reads my mind; he has obviously been looking ahead at what I am about to say.

Under current rules, partners who are coming here must rightly show that their relationship predates their exile, that it is ongoing, and that both parties have an intent to continue their relationship here. Children must show that they are related, under 18 years old, unmarried and not living an independent life. Family reunion visas are exempt from some of the usual criteria. There is no need to demonstrate adequate finance to support dependants. Dependants do not have to demonstrate any proficiency in English, and there is no processing charge or immigration health surcharge.

When it comes to other family members—again, quite rightly—exceptions and additional compassionate circumstances can be taken into account. These kinds of exceptions could apply, for example, to help a dependent child over 18 or an unaccompanied child with a relative in the UK.

As the House will know, family reunion can also be enacted through other refugee resettlement schemes. The Mandate and the Gateway schemes offer routes for refugees living overseas to be settled in the UK where this is in their best interests. Both those schemes recognise family ties as part of this calculation. Family links are also one of the grounds for eligibility under the Syrian vulnerable persons resettlement scheme. The children at risk scheme is also helping to resettle up to 3,000 children and their families from the middle east and the north African region over the course of this Parliament.

The key part of looking closely at this area must be to focus on how best we target our responses and our support, as my hon. Friend Jeremy Quin pointed out. If we change policy here in the UK—if we signal and signpost ourselves as a more open door—how will that influence behaviour and therefore lives? Of course, as we have heard, those facing civil war or persecution have little choice about fleeing their homeland—that is pretty clear—but what follows that? How best can we step in to support them?