Refugee families dangerously divided by legal aid cuts - Refugee Council
July 8, 2015

Refugee families dangerously divided by legal aid cuts

A new report by the British Red Cross has revealed that cuts to legal aid have left refugee families divided, often leaving women and children living in dangerous situations.

Refugees in Britain have a legal right to bring their spouse and dependant children to live with them here in safety, but many families can’t afford the legal help they need to make it happen.

In 2012, the British Government withdrew legal aid for family reunion, describing it as a ‘straightforward’ process. However, new research from the British Red Cross shows that the procedure is anything but simple.

In a new report, Not so straightforward: the need for qualified legal support in refugee family reunion, the British Red Cross reveal that a lack of legal support is keeping refugees from their families, leaving people stranded in dangerous situations.

In order to bring their families to Britain, refugees need to fill out a complex form without the necessary help and guidance of a qualified legal adviser. Refugees also face multiple barriers in regards to having the required documentation to prove they are related to their loved ones

The report reveals that in around two thirds of cases families needed translation help just to understand the complicated application form, and in almost three quarters of cases refugees were missing essential documentation to prove they were related to their family member.

Even more alarmingly, the British Red Cross report highlights that over half of family members waiting to join their loved ones in safety were trapped living in precarious situations. To make matters even worse, many of these people, almost all of them women and children, are required to submit documentation at their closest British embassy which often means travelling across dangerous territories.

The Refugee Council is backing the British Red Cross’ calls for family reunion for refugees to be made simpler and safer. Before the cuts to legal aid were implemented, we warned that there would be a serious impact on refugee families.

We would like to see the rules relaxed, so that refugees would be allowed to bring more members of their family to live with them in safety. At the moment, the rules are extremely strict and refugees are only able to be reunited with their spouse or children who are under the age of 18.

Refugee Council Policy Manager Judith Dennis said: “It’s completely unacceptable that the government refuses to provide the necessary help to refugees to bring their family members here safely. They should be as appalled as us to hear that family members are having to put themselves in danger simply to do what most of us take for granted, to live with your family in peace and safety.”