Refugees (Family Reunion) (No.2) Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:10 pm on 16th March 2018.

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Photo of Gill Furniss Gill Furniss Shadow Minister (Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy) (Steel, Postal Affairs and Consumer Protection) 12:10 pm, 16th March 2018

That is a fair point, and it is an aspiration of mine to see that everyone has the right to be reunited with their family. As I was saying, many of these children are growing up never knowing their relatives. They are just children, but even they could point out that the British Government are not adhering to article 10 of the UN convention on the rights of the child, which says that if you live in a different country from your parents, you have the right to be together in the same place. These pupils urged me to challenge the Government’s double standard on who qualifies as “family” when someone is a refugee. So please, answer me: why should UK citizens be able to call their grandmothers and grandfathers, and their siblings and cousins “family”, given that this right is not afforded to refugees? Why should unaccompanied child refugees not be allowed to sponsor anyone to come over and live with them?

Members should imagine fleeing their war-torn home, risking their life to get to the UK, and trying to start their life over again in a foreign country, and the trauma that they would experience. They should imagine growing up and experiencing the difficulties and turbulence of adolescence while also having to learn to cook, clean, read and write, all without having their parent there to guide them; and then imagine being told that their family cannot join them. I cannot imagine that—in my opinion, that is too much for anyone to bear.

We do not have any Government statistics on specific refugee family reunion applications, although we know that they now make up the majority of refugee applications. That in itself is telling. We are not paying enough attention to the issues that matter to refugees in this country. We are not giving them the support that they need to help them to rebuild their lives.

I am so proud of Sheffield and our legacy of welcoming refugees. Sheffield has so far provided a home to more than 1,500 refugees since 2014 and it is one of the areas in which the vulnerable persons resettlement programme is operating. But we can do more, so let us rectify this. Let us vote with the spirit of Sheffield and pass the Bill, so that our families can start to rebuild their lives.