Source : www.act.unicef.org.uk
« Right now, refugee children are alone and facing grave danger, while their family members wait desperately for them in the UK. The Government can and must change this, by urgently reuniting children with their families.
Bilal* fled Syria when he was 14, and was recently reunited with his brother in the UK. "I came via Turkey, in those terrible boats where I almost died," says Bilal. "After that, there was just waiting, and waiting, and waiting. Even though the law says I can be with my brother, I ended up stuck in the Jungle in Calais for seven months. It took more than a year from escaping Syria, to finally reach my brother in the UK."
"I’m safe now. But my friends are still stuck in Calais, and there are other children who are on their own in Europe and conflict regions. I want to help children like me be with their families. Please join me."
*Name has been changed to protect identity
The UK Government must take urgent action to reunite unaccompanied refugee children with their families in the UK. It can do this in two ways :
- It is unacceptable that refugee children have been stuck for months in wretched camps from Greece to France, despite having a legal right to be with their families waiting for them in the UK. The UK Government must speed up existing family reunion procedures, sending immigration officials to Europe to process cases swiftly, so that these children can be reunited with their families in the UK.
- It is wrong that children are only able to reunite with parents, not extended family members, under current UK immigration laws. These laws fail to recognise that after years of conflict, many of these children have been orphaned – but they may have grandparents, aunts and uncles, or adult brothers and sisters in the UK who can care for them. The UK Government must widen its family reunion rules to allow children to be reunited with extended family in the UK.
By reuniting children safely and legally with their families, the UK can protect children from drowning at sea, suffocating in the back of lorries or being forced into the hands of traffickers and smugglers. »