IOM UK, working together with the British Red Cross, supports the reunification of refugees in the UK with family members that have become separated, usually as a result of conflict and displacement. This week marked the arrival of 1,000 separated family members to the UK to be reunited with loved ones. The service is a vital lifeline for many individuals who have lost the support network of a family because of their displacement, many of whom have not seen their close relatives for numerous years. Under UK and international law, refugees have a legal right to be reunited with their families who are abroad.
“Helping families come together is a core component of IOM’s work globally, and we are proud to offer our support, alongside the British Red Cross. Refugee family reunion is about rights and protecting lives as often the people left behind are vulnerable women and children. In addition, having your family together is a critical step forward in the integration process – and with families together, entire communities can thrive”, reflects IOM UK Chief of Mission, Dipti Pardeshi.
From 2011 to 2013, 818 individuals arrived in the UK through the family reunification project. In 2015 alone, 1,000 individuals were brought back together with their relatives in the UK.
As part of the wider service, the Family Reunion Travel Assistance (FRTA) Programme allows eligible applicants who are not able to afford the travel costs to be joined with their family members with the provision of financial assistance. The British Red Cross assists individuals in covering the costs and IOM then provides end-to-end support in all travel logistics to bring the family members together.
Karl Pike, Refugee Policy and Advocacy Manager at the British Red Cross said: “The arrival of our 1,000th family member through this service marks a really positive milestone in the scheme. While this is a number to be celebrated, we are aware that there are many more people in need of our help. That’s why we are calling on the government to widen the criteria of those who can apply”.
Currently people with refugee and protection status in the UK can bring their spouses and children under-18 years old to join them. We believe this should be broadened to include older siblings and other, vulnerable, family members.
One of the latest families to be reunited is from Sudan. Safia gained refugee status in the UK, but sadly her husband and children had become separated as a result of their displacement. Through the family reunion service, Safia and was able to be reunited with husband and sons (pictured left upon arrival at Heathrow Airport), who had been living in Uganda and Sudan.