It is time this Government changed policy and did the right thing when it comes to family reunification.

22 Sep 2018
Did you know that the British government is separating children from parents who have been taken into immigration detention?

This is the practice that brought worldwide condemnation for the Trump administration earlier this year, but how British government policy currently breaks up non-EU immigrant and refugee families continues to receive less media attention than it should.

Specifically, the British Government grants a small number of child refugees each year a right to remain, but denies some parents and carers leave to stay. Additionally, some migrant parents with the right to be here suffer the heartbreak of seeing their children deported because they have turned 18 and are no longer strictly dependants.

In July, a charity that challenges immigration detention has said that scores of children, and possibly hundreds, are separated from a parent or carer in the UK every year. Bail for Immigration Detainees (Bid) has so far this year represented 155 parents who have been separated from a child or children while in immigration detention in the UK. The charity usually handles around 170 cases a year.

As Celia Clarke, director of Bid, said: “What has been happening in the United States with families arriving at the border being forcibly separated is utterly reprehensible… But in the UK we do not have the moral high ground. Our government has been separating parents from their children for the purposes of immigration control for years. Parents are detained with no time limit on that detention and no automatic legal representation, leaving their children in the community.”

Amongst the different organisations who work with refugees, there is increasing opposition to the fact that the current immigration rules on refugee family reunion only cater for a refugee’s ‘pre flight’ partner and dependent children (under 18), and do not allow unaccompanied refugee children to sponsor applications from family members.

It is also the case that the government’s approach breaches the right to a family life, as per the European Convention on Human Rights.

Article 8 states (in the somewhat outdated language of its time) that:
“Everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence.
There shall be no interference by a public authority with the exercise of this right except such as is in accordance with the law and is necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security, public safety or the economic well-being of the country, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.”

Unlike the Tories, Labour is committed to respecting this right, supporting family reunification and protecting some of the most vulnerable children in the world.

This means that if you are a child granted the right to be here, so will your parents or carers. If you have been brought up by carers or parents with a right to be here, so will you, even after you turn 18.

Practically, this means that Labour in Government will allow spouses to come here without any Minimum Income Requirement and we will always allow children here of anyone who is entitled to be here. We will never deport the children or the spouses of anyone entitled to be here.

Unlike the policies of Theresa May, Labour’s approach is guided by a commitment to human rights and a commitment to upholding respect for the humanity of refugees and migrants. It is time this Government changed policy and did the right thing when it comes to family reunification.

* This article was originally published in Labour Briefing (Co-operative) magazine.

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