I am grateful to everyone who has contacted me recently regarding the Second Reading of the Refugees (Family Reunion) (No. 2) Bill on 16 March.
I strongly support the principle of family unity and I am pleased that there already is a comprehensive framework for refugees and their families to be safely reunited in the UK. The present refugee family reunion policy allows immediate family members of those granted protection in the UK to reunite with them here. In addition, the family provisions in the immigration rules provide for relatives with protection in the UK to sponsor children when there are serious and compelling circumstances.
The policy is also clear that where an application fails under the rules, the Government will consider whether there are exceptional reasons to grant leave outside the rules. Refugees with family members in the UK may also be eligible for resettlement under the Mandate and Gateway Scheme.
The family reunion policy is designed to provide a safe and legal route for close, dependent family members to join their refugee family in the UK. This avoids the need for family members to make dangerous journeys in order to seek protection.
I am immensely proud of the Government’s wide range of action it has taken to support refugees. Investment has been made in supporting the most vulnerable refugees through resettlement programmes, which offer safe and legal routes to protection and are designed to keep families together. By 2020, 20,000 refugees from Syria will have been resettled, around half of which have already arrived.
· Over the past five years 24,700 family reunion visas have been issued. Since 2010, 49,830 people have been provided with protection status in the UK, and they are entitled to apply for their qualifying members to join them.
· £3.6 million has been committed to enable the strengthening of co-operation with France on the operation of the Dublin regulation and the development fund, and to work with the French to identify projects that support genuine claims through the Dublin process.
· £2.46 billion of humanitarian aid has been committed to Syria since 2012, our largest ever response to a humanitarian crisis.
· In 2016 the UK settled more refugees from outside Europe than any other EU state. According to Eurostat figures, over a third of people resettled in the EU came to the UK.
It is crucial that our efforts are concentrated on ensuring that existing resettlement schemes are used to full effect, and that the current rules work properly and effectively. This way we can help those who need it most.
In relation to legal aid for reunion cases, in October 2017 the Lord Chancellor announced the start of a review of legal aid reforms, which will include an assessment of the changes to the scope of legal aid for immigration cases, and will report later in 2018.
The Government’s overall strategy in tackling the migration crisis is to support international efforts to find a comprehensive and sustainable solution, while dealing with its root causes, as well as responding to the consequences.