Children must have the #RightToReunite with their families. To take this away would be barbaric, writes our Media Officer Chris.

Children across Europe are suffering, stranded in unsanitary, unsafe conditions, alone and in survival mode, in easy reach of traffickers.

In December the government presented a new EU Withdrawal Bill which watered down its legal obligations to find a replacement for family reunion. The government’s move shocked Lord Dubs, who encourage the House of Lords to vote yesterday to restore legislation. . Today, the Government has callously voted once again to scrap legal protections for children in need of protection.

Prior to working at Scottish Refugee Council, I spent 15 months in Calais with Refugee Info Bus, and news like this always brings things sharply back. On one occasion, a teenager standing at the side of the road having been evicted from shelter by the police begged me to tell him why he couldn’t be reunited with his family in England, just 20 miles away across a strip of water. Another kid, twelve years old, stranded in the remnants of the Calais jungle for a cruel winter, developed a horrendous chest infection. The authorities looked on, unblinking. And there’s plenty worse than this, but I won’t go there right now…

Lives are at stake if children cannot reunite with their families. Family reunion is about the future, about compassion, about a generation of young people not being lost. There are reports of children as young as two losing hope in the squalid camps of Greece, shutting down, already so deeply traumatised by the cards that life has dealt them. We can do better than this. We can do so much better than this.

Yesterday, a boat sank in the English Channel of the coast of Belgium. Eight people are still unaccounted for, including children. They are believed to be alive but reports are not reassuring. We urgently need more safe and legal routes to prevent needless tragedies at our border, which claimed nearly 50 lives in 2019 including the Essex tragedy. But instead, the Government is looking at tearing our  limited safe, legal routes apart. To take away the #RightToReunite would be nothing short of state-sanctioned child abuse.

We will be holding the Government to their promise that it will do everything it can to keep refugee family reunion open for unaccompanied children after Brexit. It is disappointing and illogical that this has been taken out of the withdrawal bill.

We are grateful to Lord Alf Dubs and Safe Passage for their tireless work on this campaign. Regardless of the outcome of today’s House of Commons vote, the fight will continue to ensure that our humanitarian traditions are upheld and that common sense and hope prevails.

Beth Gardiner-Smith, Safe Passage CEO explains the situation further:

“The Government won this vote in the Commons by promising it will do everything it can to keep refugee family reunion open after Brexit. The Government must keep its word to unaccompanied children, to Parliament and to people across the country who believe that Britain should do its bit to help refugees reunite with family here in Britain.

“We will be watching very closely to make sure that the right to reunite with family isn’t quietly watered down by this Government. In addition, Government Ministers have indicated they will bring forward legal protections in an Immigration Bill later this year, and we will be holding them to this commitment.

“Many of the children we support have lost their parents but they have grandparents, siblings, aunts and uncles living in the UK and ready to care for them. It is illogical that these children be denied safe passage to the UK, left with no other choice but to consider smuggling just to reach their loved ones, or to grow up alone without the care of their family many surviving in camps and car parks across Europe.”


Chris Afuakwah
Author: Chris Afuakwah