Forced to choose

Isolated and alone

For many thousands of refugees in the UK, safety from conflict has come at a heavy price. The UK government’s strict and unfair rules have forced apart mums and dads from their children, sisters from brothers, and elderly parents left behind to fend for themselves.

They may have reached safety but instead of feeling relief, the agony and guilt of separation from loved ones bares down on them. Inevitably, people are left feeling isolated, traumatised and alone as they grapple with a new language and try to find their feet in a foreign country - with minimal support.

Forced to choose

One couple were told by a UK judge they could receive protection in the UK, but they would have to leave behind two of their four children in war torn Libya, because they were over 18.

Another couple from Homs, Syria now living in Abergavenny, are desperate to be reunited with their daughter, who is now living on the streets in Lebanon with her then five-year-old son.

One 15-year-old, who escaped to the UK after being recruited by the Syrian army worked in McDonalds to raise the $3000 it would cost for his mother to make the dangerous journey to join him; as he had no legal alternative due to his age.

A report by Oxfam and Refugee Council highlights the devastating affects of these rules on refugee families.

Unfair laws

Current UK laws governing the rights of refugees are restrictive and unfair. They deny child refugees the right to bring their parents to the UK; they mean that parents have to leave behind their children even if they have only just turned 18; and they mean that elderly parents are left behind in war torn countries to fend for themselves.

Our Amnesty Ambassador, Juliet Stevenson, describes what it would feel like to imagine yourself in that situation:

MPs support family reunion

Earlier this year, MPs packed out Westminster to support a Bill introduced by Angus MacNeil MP proposing the necessary changes to bring more refugee families together. Thanks to many thousands of people like you writing to your MPs, the Bill passed with an overwhelming majority with 131 MPs voting in favour from all sides of the political spectrum.

But now we need the government to listen to these MPs and also support these changes. The new Home Secretary, Priti Patel has the power to do this with the strike of a pen. Please sign our petition urging her to reunite more refugee families.

What we're calling for

With your help we're calling for the following changes to the current rules:

  • Allow child refugees in the UK the right to sponsor their close family, so they can rebuild their lives together and help them integrate in their new community;
  • Expand who qualifies as family, so that young people who have turned 18 and elderly parents can join their family in the UK;
  • Reintroduce legal aid for refugee family reunion cases, so people who have lost everything have the support they need to afford and navigate the complicated process of being reunited with their families.

We are proud to be running our Families Together campaign in partnership with Oxfam, UNHCR, Refugee Council, British Red Cross, STAR (Student Action for Refugees) and others to call on our government to change the rules that keep refugee families apart. 

Helping mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters who have been torn apart, lost everything and experienced so much, is the right thing to do. Please join us by calling on the Home Secretary to show true leadership and allow refugee families to reunite and rebuild their lives together in the UK.