Where would you be
without your family?

Restrictive rules are keeping refugee families apart. Join the campaign to bring #FamiliesTogether.

© UNHCR/Annia Sakkab

© UNHCR/Annia Sakkab

© UNHCR/Annia Sakkab

Imagine if you were forced to leave your family

War has destroyed everything that you know and forced you and your family to flee your home. During a traumatic escape, you become separated from your children and your elderly parents. You don’t know what’s happened to them.

You reach safety in the UK and are allowed to stay here. But your family are still in danger. The law means they can’t join you. You worry about them constantly – the uncertainty and stress mean you’re unable to rebuild your life.

This is the reality for many families torn apart by war and persecution. Restrictive rules keep refugees who reach the UK separated from their loved ones. People who have fled horrific experiences can be left alone and distraught, knowing that those they love still face untold dangers.

Under the current rules, refugee children can’t sponsor even their closest family to live with them in the UK; and elderly parents and children who are 18 or over can’t join their families here. This has devastating consequences for so many people – like Muhamed and Amal:

©UNHCR/Cengiz Yar

©UNHCR/Cengiz Yar

©UNHCR/Cengiz Yar

Muhammad and Amal's story

Muhammed and Amal are from Syria. They fled to Libya with their four children shortly after the conflict began. Life in Libya became increasingly dangerous while they were there and after two years Muhammed decided to make the journey to Europe.

Muhammed was granted refugee status in the UK. Aware that his son, Kusai, was due to turn 18 very soon, making him ineligible for family reunion, Muhammed immediately began the process of applying to bring his family to the UK. That application was rejected. Muhammed knew that his 20-year-old daughter, Athar, might not be accepted but also knew that, under family reunion law, he had the right to bring his wife and any children under the age of 18 to the UK. It turned out that the reason for the rejection was Kusai’s passport expiring while the family was in Libya. While awaiting that decision Kusai turned 18 and became ineligible for family reunion.

Muhammed appealed, and a judge ruled that while Muhammed’s wife and two youngest children were eligible for family reunion and could come to the UK, Kusai and Athar were rejected on the basis of being over 18 years old. While Athar has remained in the region, Kusai decided to take matters into his own hands and took the dangerous journey across the Mediterranean to a makeshift camp in unthinkable conditions in Calais*.

*Case study accurate as of May 2016

You can read a report by Oxfam and Refugee Council on the impact of family separation on refugees in the UK and other families' stories.

Bringing families together

Right now, we have the chance to help families like Muhamed and Amal's.

On 16 March 2018, 131 MPs voted in favour of the Refugee Family Reunion Bill which aims to allow refugees in the UK to be joined by their close family.

This was the right thing to do. Easing the restrictive rules will help some of those forced to flee due to the global refugee crisis. They have lost their homes, been separated from their families and all that they know. Mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters who have been torn apart, lost everything and experienced so much, deserve a chance to rebuild their lives and have safe, happy futures together.

The FamiliesTogether campaign is calling for:

1.      Child refugees in the UK to have the right to sponsor their close family so they can rebuild their lives together and help them integrate in their new community

2.      The definition of who qualifies as family to be expanded so that young people who have turned 18 and elderly parents can live in safety with their families in the UK

3.      The reintroduction of legal aid so refugees who have lost everything have the support they need to afford and navigate the complicated process of being reunited with their families

How you can help

Thanks to thousands of people across the country writing to their MP, 131 of them attended the second hearing of, and voted in favour of the Refugee Family Reunion Bill.

There's still a lot more to be done an we will call upon our supporters again soon for their help.

If you're an MP, and you supported the Refugees (Family Reunion) (No. 2) Bill on 16 March - Thank you. If you would like to find out more about the Family Reunion campaign, please email parliament@amnesty.org.uk

©Aubrey Wade/Oxfam

Briefing for MPs

Download a briefing document for MPs

More information for MPs

More information on the Bill

More information on refugee family reunion

More information on current restrictions to refugee family reunion

MPs wishing to support the Bill

  • Contact us

To find out more about Families Together please email parliament@amnesty.org.uk

    The Families Together coalition

    Families Together is a coalition of organisations who helped Angus MacNeil MP to secure the Bill. Individuals and organisations from across the country pledged their support. Thousands of supporters wrote to their MPs asking them to attend the debate on 16 March. As a result, 131 MPs voted in favour of the Refugee Family Reunion Bill.

    Logos of organisations part of the Families Together Coalition

    There is still a lot more to do, and the more of us there are working to get refugee families together safely in the UK, the better.

    Would you like to join the coalition?

    To find out more about the campaign and/or to join the coalition, please email parliament@amnesty.org.uk


    In March 2018 we saw a huge step forward for refugees in the UK who are desperate to be reunited with their families. Restrictive government rules are leaving refugees isolated, traumatised and alone in the UK, knowing that the people they love still face untold dangers in other countries. But on 16 March 2018, 129 MPs supported a Bill that will help keep families together, by proposing important changes to the rules that allow refugee families to reunite in the UK.

    Thanks to calls from the UK public to change unfair rules, MPs showed true leadership. The fairer new rules we demanded will mean children don't have to grow up alone. They'll prevent young women being stranded in war zones, and elderly parents forced to fend for themselves.This isn't the final step. In the next few months we'll need more pressure than ever, to make sure that the changes to refugee family reunion rules become reality – and to help people rebuild their lives so they can have safe futures together.

    The following 131 MPs voted in favour of the Refugee Family Reunion Bill on 16th March 2018:

    The Rt Hon Diane Abbott MP - Labour Party - Hackney North and Stoke Newington

    Ms Debbie Abrahams MP - Labour Party - Oldham East and Saddleworth

    Ms Rushanara Ali MP - Labour Party - Bethnal Green and Bow

    Ms Hannah Bardell MP - Scottish National Party (SNP) - Livingston

    Ms Mhairi Black MP - Scottish National Party (SNP) - Paisley and Renfrewshire South

    The Rt Hon Ian Blackford MP - Scottish National Party (SNP) - Ross, Skye and Lochaber

    Ms Kirsty Blackman MP - Scottish National Party (SNP) - Aberdeen North

    Mr Paul Blomfield MP - Labour Party - Sheffield Central

    Sir Peter Bottomley MP - Conservative Party - Worthing West

    Ms Deidre Brock MP - Scottish National Party (SNP) - Edinburgh North and Leith

    Mr Alan Brown MP - Scottish National Party (SNP) - Kilmarnock and Loudoun

    Ms Lyn Brown MP - Labour Party - West Ham

    Ms Karen Buck MP - Labour Party - Westminster North

    Mr Richard Burden MP - Labour Party - Birmingham, Northfield

    Ms Dawn Butler MP - Labour Party - Brent Central

    Ms Ruth Cadbury MP - Labour Party - Brentford and Isleworth

    Mr Dan Carden MP - Labour Party - Liverpool, Walton

    The Rt Hon Alistair Carmichael MP - Liberal Democrats - Orkney and Shetland

    Mr Douglas Chapman MP - Scottish National Party (SNP) - Dunfermline and West Fife

    Mr Bambos Charalambous MP - Labour Party - Enfield, Southgate

    Ms Joanna Cherry QC MP - Scottish National Party (SNP) - Edinburgh South West

    The Rt Hon Yvette Cooper MP - Labour Party - Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford

    The Rt Hon Jeremy Corbyn MP - Labour Party - Islington North

    Mr Neil Coyle MP - Labour Party - Bermondsey and Old Southwark

    Dr Stella Creasy MP - Labour/Co-operative Party - Walthamstow

    Dr Jon Cruddas MP - Labour Party - Dagenham and Rainham

    Mr John Cryer MP - Labour Party - Leyton and Wanstead

    Mr Jim Cunningham MP - Labour Party - Coventry South

    The Rt Hon Sir Edward Davey MP - Liberal Democrats - Kingston and Surbiton

    Mr Wayne David MP - Labour Party - Caerphilly

    Mr Martyn Day MP - Scottish National Party (SNP) - Linlithgow and East Falkirk

    Ms Marsha De Cordova MP - Labour Party - Battersea

    Ms Thangam Debbonaire MP - Labour Party - Bristol West

    Mr Martin Docherty-Hughes MP - Scottish National Party (SNP) - West Dunbartonshire

    Dr Anneliese Dodds MP - Labour Party - Oxford East

    Mr Stephen Doughty MP - Labour/Co-operative Party - Cardiff South and Penarth

    Dr David Drew MP - Labour Party - Stroud

    Ms Rosie Duffield MP - Labour Party - Canterbury

    Mr Jonathan Edwards MP - Plaid Cymru - Carmarthen East and Dinefwr

    Mr Clive Efford MP - Labour Party - Eltham

    Mrs Louise Ellman MP - Labour/Co-operative Party - Liverpool, Riverside

    Mr Tim Farron MP - Liberal Democrats - Westmorland and Lonsdale

    The Rt Hon Frank Field MP - Labour Party - Birkenhead

    Mr Jim Fitzpatrick MP - Labour Party - Poplar and Limehouse

    Ms Colleen Fletcher MP - Labour Party - Coventry North East

    Ms Vicky Foxcroft MP - Labour Party - Lewisham, Deptford

    Ms Gill Furniss MP - Labour Party - Sheffield, Brightside and Hillsborough

    Mr Hugh Gaffney MP - Labour Party - Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill

    Mr Mike Gapes MP - Labour/Co-operative Party - Ilford South

    Mr Barry Gardiner MP - Labour Party - Brent North

    Ms Ruth George MP - Labour Party - High Peak

    Mr Stephen Gethins MP - Scottish National Party (SNP) - North East Fife

    Ms Patricia Gibson MP - Scottish National Party (SNP) - North Ayrshire and Arran

    Ms Preet Kaur Gill MP - Labour Party - Birmingham, Edgbaston

    Mr Roger Godsiff MP - Labour Party - Birmingham, Hall Green

    Mr Patrick Grady MP - Scottish National Party (SNP) - Glasgow North

    Mr Peter Grant MP - Scottish National Party (SNP) - Glenrothes

    Mr Neil Gray MP - Scottish National Party (SNP) - Airdrie and Shotts

    Ms Kate Green OBE MP - Labour Party - Stretford and Urmston

    Ms Margaret Greenwood MP - Labour Party - Wirral West

    Mr Andrew Gwynne MP - Labour Party - Denton and Reddish

    Ms Louise Haigh MP - Labour Party - Sheffield, Heeley

    Ms Carolyn Harris MP - Labour Party - Swansea East

    Ms Helen Hayes MP - Labour Party - Dulwich and West Norwood

    Mr Drew Hendry MP - Scottish National Party (SNP) - Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey

    Ms Sharon Hodgson MP - Labour Party - Washington and Sunderland West

    Mr Stewart Hosie MP - Scottish National Party (SNP) - Dundee East

    Dr Rupa Huq MP - Labour Party - Ealing Central and Acton

    Ms Sarah Jones MP - Labour Party - Croydon Central

    Ms Liz Kendall MP - Labour Party - Leicester West

    Mr Afzal Khan MP - Labour Party - Manchester, Gorton

    Mr Ged Killen MP - Labour Party - Rutherglen and Hamilton West

    Ms Lesley Laird MP - Labour Party - Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath

    The Rt Hon David Lammy MP - Labour Party - Tottenham

    Mr Chris Law MP - Scottish National Party (SNP) - Dundee West

    Ms Karen Lee MP - Labour Party - Lincoln

    Mr Angus MacNeil MP - Scottish National Party (SNP) - Na h-Eileanan an Iar

    Mr Justin Madders MP - Labour Party - Ellesmere Port and Neston

    Mr Gordon Marsden MP - Labour Party - Blackpool South

    Mr Sandy Martin MP - Labour Party - Ipswich

    Mr Steve McCabe MP - Labour Party - Birmingham, Selly Oak

    Ms Kerry McCarthy MP - Labour Party - Bristol East

    Mr Stewart Malcolm McDonald MP - Scottish National Party (SNP) - Glasgow South

    Mr Stuart C. McDonald MP - Scottish National Party (SNP) - Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch East

    The Rt Hon John McDonnell MP - Labour Party - Hayes and Harlington

    Mr Conor McGinn MP - Labour Party - St Helens North

    Ms Alison McGovern MP - Labour Party - Wirral South

    Ms Carol Monaghan MP - Scottish National Party (SNP) - Glasgow North West

    Ms Layla Moran MP - Liberal Democrats - Oxford West and Abingdon

    Ms Lisa Nandy MP - Labour Party - Wigan

    Mr Robert Neill MP - Conservative Party - Bromley and Chislehurst

    Mr Gavin Newlands MP - Scottish National Party (SNP) - Paisley and Renfrewshire North

    Mr Brendan O'Hara MP - Scottish National Party (SNP) - Argyll and Bute

    Ms Kate Osamor MP - Labour/Co-operative Party - Edmonton

    Mr Albert Owen MP - Labour Party - Ynys Môn

    Ms Teresa Pearce MP - Labour Party - Erith and Thamesmead

    Mr Matthew Pennycook MP - Labour Party - Greenwich and Woolwich

    Mr Luke Pollard MP - Labour Party - Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport

    Mr Stephen Pound MP - Labour Party - Ealing North

    Ms Yasmin Qureshi MP - Labour Party - Bolton South East

    Mr Steve Reed MP - Labour/Co-operative Party - Croydon North

    Ms Ellie Reeves MP - Labour Party - Lewisham West and Penge

    Mr Matt Rodda MP - Labour Party - Reading East

    Ms Danielle Rowley MP - Labour Party - Midlothian

    Mr Lloyd Russell-Moyle MP - Labour Party - Brighton, Kemptown

    Ms Liz Saville Roberts MP - Plaid Cymru - Dwyfor Meirionnydd

    Mr Tommy Sheppard MP - Scottish National Party (SNP) - Edinburgh East

    Mr Gavin Shuker MP - Labour/Co-operative Party - Luton South

    Mr Andy Slaughter MP - Labour Party - Hammersmith

    Ms Cat Smith MP - Labour Party - Lancaster and Fleetwood

    Ms Eleanor Smith MP - Labour Party - Wolverhampton South West

    Mr Henry Smith MP - Conservative Party - Crawley

    Mr Alex Sobel MP - Labour Party - Leeds North West

    The Rt Hon Anna Soubry MP - Conservative Party - Broxtowe

    Mr Chris Stephens MP - Scottish National Party (SNP) - Glasgow South West

    Ms Jo Stevens MP - Labour Party - Cardiff Central

    Mr Wes Streeting MP - Labour Party - Ilford North

    Mr Paul Sweeney MP - Labour Party - Glasgow North East

    Mr Mark Tami MP - Labour Party - Alyn and Deeside

    Mr Nick Thomas-Symonds MP - Labour Party - Torfaen

    The Rt Hon Stephen Timms MP - Labour Party - East Ham

    Ms Catherine West MP - Labour Party - Hornsey and Wood Green

    Dr Alan Whitehead MP - Labour Party - Southampton, Test

    Mr Martin Whitfield MP - Labour Party - East Lothian

    Dr Philippa Whitford  MP - Scottish National Party (SNP) - Central Ayrshire

    Dr Paul Williams MP - Labour Party - Stockton South

    Mr Chris Williamson MP - Labour Party - Derby North

    Mr Peter Wishart MP - Scottish National Party (SNP) - Perth and North Perthshire

    Mr Mohammad Yasin MP - Labour Party - Bedford


    This document sets out some of the arguments that may be made by government and parliamentarians against the provisions within the Family Reunion Bill, outlining counter-arguments and detail that supports the need for these new provisions.

    © UNHCR/Christos Tolis

    © UNHCR/Christos Tolis

    © UNHCR/Christos Tolis