Pro mass migration campaigners are demanding the government allow ‘unaccompanied minors’ who arrive in Britain illegally to import their families.
Campaigners on Thursday stood holding a 240-metre paper chain linking the Home Office and the Department for Education, the two government departments that are set to publish a joint strategy on Monday regarding the safeguarding of unaccompanied minors.
Amnesty International and Student Action for Refugees (STAR) presented ministers with a petition which states: “Being reunited with close family is the best way to safeguard child refugees in the UK and would improve their chances of recovery, integration and personal development.”
Joining campaigners were members of pop group Kaiser Chiefs, and actress Juliet Stevenson who said that “the UK Government must urgently act to alleviate their suffering”.
The activist actress, who has shilled consistently agitated over the last year for Britain to open its borders, claimed that flying young migrants’ family members in is “not only the moral thing to do”, but “also makes sense from a policy perspective”. She argued that it “could save valuable resources in the long run, such as costs for mental health services and foster care”.
While campaigners complain “children are the only refugees in our system denied the right to sponsor family members to join them in the UK”, the government has explained that giving young migrants — who have entered Britain illegally — the chance to bring family members over would create “perverse incentives”.
A Home Office spokesman said: “Widening our refugee family reunion criteria to allow children to sponsor family members would create perverse incentives for them to be encouraged, or even forced, to leave their family, risk hazardous journeys and seek to enter the UK illegally in order to sponsor relatives.
“It would play into the hands of criminal gangs who exploit vulnerable people and goes against our safeguarding responsibilities.”
Amnesty UK’s director of campaigns called it a “travesty” that “vulnerable children who have come to this country, fleeing conflict and persecution, are not entitled to apply for their family members to join them”.
Kerry Moscogiuri added: “Many of them are already deeply traumatised and this cruel policy only exacerbates their suffering. We want to send a strong message to the UK government to change the rules to allow them to be reunited with their loved ones.”
Hayley Cohen, case work manager for Young Roots, a group which supports young asylum seekers in London, said denying unaccompanied minors the right to fly family members into Britain was having a “profound impact” on their mental health.
“We see a lot of self-harm, problems with sleep, post traumatic stress disorder. You have to remember these are children who have often been through unimaginable things and now they are being told they can not be reunited with their families,” she told The Guardian.