MP Angus MacNeil’s Bill to reunite refugee families and ease the UK government’s “inhumane” immigration rules has passed its first major hurdle in Westminster today (Friday March 16th).
Despite the UK government’s opposition, the Bill passedits Second Reading in Parliament with the backing of SNP, Conservative, Labour, Lib Dem, Plaid Cymru, Green and DUP MPs. The Bill will now proceed to Committee Stage for further scrutiny and amendments.
The Refugees (Family Reunion) Bill is set to be debated in Westminster today (Friday March 16th), and looks to ensure:
- Child refugees in the UK would have the right to sponsor their close family to come to the UK, so they can rebuild their lives together and help them integrate in their new community.
- An expansion of who qualifies as a family, so that young people who have turned 18, and elderly parents, can live in safety with their families in the UK.
- The reintroduction of legal aid, so refugees who have lost everything have the support they need to navigate the complicated process of being reunited with their families.
The Bill has secured cross-party support from Conservative, Labour, Lib Dem, Plaid Cymru, Green and DUP MPs, and has also been backed by the Refugee Council, the UN Refugee Agency, Amnesty International, the British Red Cross and Oxfam GB.
The SNP Scottish Government has repeatedly called on the UK government to step up to its responsibility and to take in its fair share of refugees to resettle. At the end of last year, the Scottish Government welcomed its 2,000th Syrian refugee to the country – meeting its target of resettling refugees three years ahead of schedule through the Syrian Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Programme (SVPRP).
Angus MacNeil MP said: “I’m delighted that this Bill - which seeks to reunite refugee families and reintorudce legal aid - has secured cross-party support, and I urge the UK government to use today's (Friday) debate as an opportunity to act to protect refugees, rather than turning its back on them.
“At the moment, the UK government’s regressive and strict immigration laws have punished child refugees by cutting them off from their families – which leaves them vulnerable and risks young people being exploited or possibly trafficked, without that family support around them.
“This Bill goes beyond party politics – it is a simple question of humanity, compassion, and the UK living up to its responsibilities on the international stage in dealing with the refugee crisis.
“More than half of the world’s refugees are children; young people who - having fled hell on earth - are searching for ways to rebuild their lives. However, when they reach the UK they are met with red tape and rules that prevent them from being able to do so.
“It’s time the UK government recognised this grievous injustice, listened to concerns raised by human rights organisations and cross-party MPs, and backed this Bill, so that refugees can be reunited with their families and get on with rebuilding their lives.”