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Aid groups plead for safe passage of child refugees to UK

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​Leading groups implore UK ministers to rethink ditching agreement

Aid groups have united to urge the UK government to change its rules on reuniting refugee families.

The move comes after the Home Office said it would stop receiving children via the so-called Dubs amendment at the end of March.

Designed by peer and former refugee Lord Dubs, the law aimed to help some of the estimated 90,000 unaccompanied migrant children across Europe.

To date only 350 children have benefitted from the scheme which has led to the policy being scrapped.

In a report Together Again: reuniting refugee families in safety, Oxfam, the British Refugee Council, the British Red Cross and Amnesty International point out that by changing the policy – which only allows those granted refugee status in the UK to bring their spouse or children under the age of 18 to the country – the government could offer sanctuary to more vulnerable refugees, supported by their family members.

For example, refugee children could be supported by their adult siblings, grandparents, aunts or uncles who already live in the UK, thereby taking pressure off local authorities, the organisations say.

Jamie Livingstone, head of Oxfam Scotland, said: “Here in Scotland, there has been encouraging cross-party support for a welcoming approach to refugees. Yet we must do all we can to ensure that those who have found safety and a new life here in Scotland do not remain separated from close family members due to the UK government’s restrictive policies.

“We are writing today to all Scottish MPs, sharing this new report and asking them to do what they can to bring about the required changes at Westminster so that more refugees living across the UK can be reunited with their family members.”

The agencies outline 12 recommendations for the government to make it easier for families to reunite and protect vulnerable refugees, including: expanding the criteria of who qualifies as a family member; allowing an expanded group of extended family members – including aunts, uncles and grandparents; and allowing unaccompanied children granted refugee status in the UK to bring family members under the family reunion policy.

The British Refugee Council's chief executive Maurice Wren said: “It’s a fact that war and persecution frequently divides refugee families so it’s utterly contemptible that heartless government policies keep families apart regardless of the danger they may be in.

“No child should be prevented from growing up without their parents; no family should be forced to make impossible choices between spending a lifetime apart or placing their lives in the hands of smugglers.

“The government must do much more to enable refugees to escape danger and rebuild their lives together with their loved ones in the UK.”