This Government Must Stop Separating Families
04 Jul 2018Last week saw international fury over the separation of undocumented migrant parents and children seeking to enter the US by the Trump administration as part of its new hard-line immigration policy, with images of caged children shocking people around the globe while at the same time the President has spoken of migrants ‘infesting’ the US.
US immigration officials say 2,342 children were separated from 2,206 parents between 5 May and 9 June.
Eventually, the President responded to pressure at home and abroad by signing an executive order promising to “keep families together” in migrant detention, although the order does not address families already separated by the policy and, of course, does not change the other elements of the Trump administration’s inhumane policies towards migrants.
Trump’s cruel treatment of children has rightly received enormous amount of attention here in Britain, and after this outcry Theresa May finally condemned Trump’s approach at last week’s Prime Minister’s Questions. However, how British government policy currently breaks up non-EU immigrant and refugee families continues to receive less media attention than it should.
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.
This week, 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.
Amongst those 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. As Kate Allen, Director of Amnesty International UK, has said: "Child refugees are some of the most vulnerable people in the UK. Having fled the horrors of war and persecution, many now arrive in this country facing the heart-breaking prospect that they may never see their parents or siblings again."
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 nterference 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.
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 - or Trump, whom she will shortly be rolling out the red carpet for - 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.