I stand proudly today in support of the Bill, and I congratulate Angus Brendan MacNeil on his determination in bringing the Bill forward, despite some efforts from people in this Chamber to show little empathy and to frustrate this process. I support this Bill for my refugee and migrant constituents, and for their loved ones unable to join them. This Bill will give a lifeline to families torn apart, first, by conflict, and, then again, by our unfair and nonsensical immigration rules. Currently, refugees can be joined only by parents or by children under the age of 18. Unaccompanied minors in the UK cannot currently sponsor anyone to join them. This Bill will expand who qualifies as “family” so that vulnerable people, such as the elderly and children over the age of 18, may be able to reunite with their families in the UK, and it will allow unaccompanied children, who have to adjust to life in the UK without a single family member there to support them, to sponsor relatives to join them.
I support this Bill because some of my constituents do not know when they will see their families again. Abdul Charif, a young man from Syria, came to study in the UK in 2006, but when he attempted to return to his home town after his studies he was forced to flee again and make the perilous journey back to the UK. He settled in Sheffield and applied for a visa to visit his family, who had made it past the Syrian border to Turkey, but he was rejected. He sought help from every agency and organisation available to try to be reunited with his family, but to no avail. In 2016, the Government brought in the vulnerable persons relocation scheme. Abdul applied, and later that year he was finally informed that his family had been registered and that his case has been passed to the Home Office. Two years on, and six years after attempting to see his loved ones, he has yet to receive a single piece of correspondence telling him when exactly his family can join him.
It is hard to believe, but Abdul and his family are considered some of the lucky ones. When I asked why his family eventually qualified for the vulnerable persons relocation scheme, he told me that his elderly parents had developed serious health problems, in part because his older brother was tragically killed by a handmade bomb. They are considered the lucky ones, and they are still waiting. I cannot imagine what Abdul and his family have gone through. I also cannot imagine the grief and worry that he could have been saved had he been aided by a process which from the start had regarded his parents and sister as “family” in the way that we would for any citizen, as they might very well be with him today.
I support this Bill because children are missing their grandparents, their uncles and aunts, and their siblings. In November, 21 pupils from Byron Wood Academy in Sheffield wrote to me about the injustice of our immigration rules, and many of them are refugees or have parents who arrived in this country as refugees and then settled.