Refugee Family Reunion

Oral Answers to Questions — Home Department – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 4th June 2018.

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Photo of Jo Stevens Jo Stevens Labour, Cardiff Central 12:00 am, 4th June 2018

If he will take steps to expand the scope of the refugee family reunion rules.

Photo of Sajid Javid Sajid Javid The Secretary of State for the Home Department

The Government’s approach to refugee family reunion has provided a safe and legal route for more than 25,000 partners and children of those granted protection here in the last five years. We are listening carefully to calls to expand family reunion. We are monitoring the progress of two private Members’ Bills and are actively in discussion with non-governmental organisations.

Photo of Jo Stevens Jo Stevens Labour, Cardiff Central

While adults can sponsor their relatives, under UK rules separated children have no family reunion rights—not even to bring their parents to the UK. Every other country in the EU allows children to sponsor at least their closest relatives. When will the UK do the same?

Photo of Sajid Javid Sajid Javid The Secretary of State for the Home Department

I understand the concerns of the hon. Lady, who is right to raise this important matter. As I said a moment ago, we want to look at the private Members’ Bills and see what more we can do. On her specific issue about children, there is a concern that if we allow children to sponsor adults, whether their parents or others, that might cause harm, in that people might be incentivised to push children forward and put them through danger. I hope she understands that we need to consider such things carefully.

Photo of Ranil Jayawardena Ranil Jayawardena Conservative, North East Hampshire

Is it not critical that we help people at home rather than incentivising people to trust people traffickers and so support their illegal activities?

Photo of Sajid Javid Sajid Javid The Secretary of State for the Home Department

My hon. Friend makes a very good point. He will know that the Government do a lot—more than any other European Government—to support refugees in conflict zones. With regards to Syria, for example, the British Government have so far allocated more than £2 billion.

Photo of Patrick Grady Patrick Grady SNP Chief Whip

The Home Secretary says he wants to consider the private Members’ Bills, so is it not about time the Government brought forward a money resolution so that the Bill in the name of my hon. Friend Angus Brendan MacNeil, the Refugees (Family Reunion) (No. 2) Bill, can make progress and we can debate the Government’s amendments?

Photo of Sajid Javid Sajid Javid The Secretary of State for the Home Department

As I have said, this is an important and sensitive issue and we want to consider it carefully, but that means it should not be rushed. We should take the correct time necessary to consider the Bills.

Photo of Rebecca Pow Rebecca Pow Conservative, Taunton Deane

We have two Syrian families living in Taunton Deane. The local community has gone all out to look after them, particularly a charity called Christian Help and Action for Refugees in Somerset and Rev. Rod Corke from St Mary Magdalene Church, who is leaving us soon to go to Malvern—a great loss. Will the Home Secretary join me in congratulating all those who have given up so much time to look after these needy people?

Photo of Sajid Javid Sajid Javid The Secretary of State for the Home Department

I absolutely join my hon. Friend in commending the work of her local community in helping refugees, particularly the group CHARIS. It shows the importance of community sponsorship, which is something we want to look at more closely.

Photo of Diane Abbott Diane Abbott Shadow Home Secretary

The importance of family life ought to unite both sides of the House, but the current rules break up families, as many of us see in our own constituency case loads week after week. The rules are inhumane and in breach of the right to a family life under article 8 of the European convention on human rights. It is also unfortunate that legal aid for some of these applications, which was previously available, was removed under the coalition in 2013. Labour has pledged in government to end the breaking up of families under these rules. Surely the Home Secretary should move faster to review his current family reunion rules.

Photo of Sajid Javid Sajid Javid The Secretary of State for the Home Department

I say to the right hon. Lady that 25,000 people have been reunited over the last five years—5,000 a year; I hope she would agree that that is not an insignificant number. She says the current rules are inhumane. It is worth reminding her that they were introduced in 2007 by the previous Labour Government. Perhaps she should reflect on that. She talks about legal aid. As she will know, legal aid is under review by the Ministry of Justice and is something we are looking at carefully.