Celebrities Urge Prime Minister to Reunite Refugee Families
A group of 70 high-profile celebrities have signed a letter asking the Prime Minister to create safer pathways for asylum and to reunite refugee families currently being kept apart by UK laws.
The letter, reminds the Prime Minister that whilst we’ve all felt how painful it can be to be separated from loved ones during the COVID-19 pandemic, this is the every day reality for some children in the UK.
The letter reads:
“The UK’s current refugee family reunion rules say that these vulnerable child refugees cannot be reunited with their family members. After finally reaching safety, many must now grapple with a future of insecurity, knowing they might never see their family again. Tragically, at a time when children need their parents the most, our current rules mean that child refugees in this country will be left to live their lives alone.”
(Amnesty Ambassador and Actress Olivia Coleman – image credit to Amnesty International)
The letter, which has been signed by celebrities including Helen Mirren, Emma Thompson, Gary Lineker, Oliva Coleman, Stephen Fry and many more, is in support of the Families Together campaign.
How are the current laws keeping families apart?
Under current UK law adult refugees are allowed to sponsor their family members to join them in the UK. However, child refugees don’t have this same right.
This means that minors who are granted refugee status in the UK can be left without their family, leading to a distressing situation.
Merhawi Hagos, 18-year-old refugee from Eritrea, said:
“I found the experience of living without a family to be unbearable and a situation I would not wish upon anyone. I struggle to lead a normal life: cannot plan, cannot focus on my studies or work. I feel lonely, and depressed and do not sleep well.”
What is the Families Together campaign calling for?
The Families Together campaign makes three simple demands from the government. Firstly, they want refugee children in the UK to be given the right to sponsor their close family members. Secondly, they want the definition of who qualifies as family to be extended so that people of all ages are treated equally. Lastly, they want legal aid to be reintroduced.
Laura Padoan, Co-Chair at the Families Together Coalition, said:
“Lockdown for many of us has meant separation from our loved ones. This is a heartbreak all too familiar for many refugee families who for too long have been kept apart due to overly restrictive UK rules. Today high-profile stars are sending a message loud in clear to the Prime Minister – families belong together.”