Earlier this month Ali Hossain’s* wife and four children finally arrived safely in the UK, from their home country in the Middle East where war continues to rage.
For Ali, the wait had been long and anxious. Although he himself had been recognised by the UK government as a refugee in mid-2017, he next had to negotiate the complex legal process of applying for Family Reunion for his loved ones.
At the moment, a person with Refugee Status can apply to bring their closest relatives to join them in the UK but only if a set of stringent conditions are met.
The Government’s own internal guidance on assessing Family Reunion applications states that the difficulties of obtaining documentary evidence for someone fleeing war should be borne in mind. In actual fact however, applications are often rejected if the applicant cannot produce original documents such as marriage certificates, photographs, valid passports or Travel Documents, etc.
A further obstacle is the fact that only children aged under 18 are eligible to join a refugee parent overseas. In Ali’s case this meant facing the possibility that is wife and three youngest children could be granted visas for the UK, while his eldest son could be refused and left to live alone in a conflict zone. Ali’s family had to make a dangerous journey cross-country in order to renew their expired passports before the application could be made. Ali and his wife had then to spend months amassing papers and photographs, as the situation outside their front door worsened.
Ali’s family were granted their visas and are now settling in to life in the North of England. Although his eldest son was not granted the same type of visa as his mother and siblings, he was allowed to come to the UK outside the Immigration Rules.
While Ali’s family are now safe, the families of many other refugees continue to live in situations of danger or conflict.
On 16th March 2018, a new proposed bill to allow child refugees to join their relatives in the UK passed its first reading in the House of Commons. This would mean that in future, families like Ali’s would no longer face the prospect of having to leave a child aged over 18 behind.
It would also allow child refugees to apply for their parents and siblings to join them in the UK; something which at present is not possible. Finally, it would allow refugees to claim Legal Aid to help pay the legal costs of preparing the Family Reunion application, rather than having to find the legal fees when they themselves are often on a low income.
We will continue to monitor the progress of the Bill with interest and hope that it opens the door to more refugees being able to be reunited with their loved ones.
*Names have been changed to protect our client’s identity.