The head of UNICEF UK Mike Penrose warned that refugee children could be separated from their families permanently unless the British government includes family reunification in post-Brexit immigration law. Refugees currently have the right to be reunited with extended family members under the EU’s Dublin III regulation but the UK’s own legislation covers only children and their parents. In practice, this means that any orphan children cannot reach siblings, grandparents or aunts and uncles.
UK immigration law currently stipulates that “your partner or child can apply to join or stay with you in the UK if: you were separated when you were forced to leave your country, [and] you’ve been given asylum or five years’ humanitarian protection but do not yet have British citizenship.” The law applies to children anywhere in the world, if one or both of their parents are in the UK. Following the Brexit, London will no longer abide by Dublin III regulation.
The UK government said that the plans for an immigration system after the Brexit would be announced in a white paper later this year with a new immigration bill planned to go through parliament next year. UNICEF urged the government to commit to include extended family under reunification rights in new immigration laws. Mr. Penrose thus also warned that “Brexit could risk the ability to get children fleeing war and persecution to the safety of their close family in the UK. Now is the time for the UK government to broaden its own rules and ensure the protection of unaccompanied refugee children.”