Challenges for refugees reuniting with family members

Families we work with have faced many challenges to get to the point where we are able to support them. The UK sponsor will have gone through the asylum process, usually alone and will be adjusting to life in the UK. Family members overseas are often living in unstable or dangerous circumstances and in many cases are not able to access good medical care or education for their children. In some cases families are facing immediate risk to their lives and are moving often or living in hiding as they await travel to the UK.

External factors impacting on the ability of a family to reunite successfully are:

  • Sponsor being unable to work and the family’s financial circumstances becoming increasingly desperate
  • A requirement for TB testing in the visa application process forcing many families to get into debt or to delay the application
  • High costs associated with making the visa application including applying for passports, travel to visa application centres and DNA testing for some families
  • Visas being issued at short notice with a few months until expiry preventing families from being able to plan ahead and forcing unnecessary urgency to make travel arrangements
  • Increasingly bureaucratic systems to make applications, navigate planning for travel to the UK and in accessing support post arrival
  • Lack of services post arrival for families to deal with the trauma of separation and rebuild their lives

Further reading

Red Cross report ‘Together at last: Supporting refugee families who reunite in the UK’—supporting-refugee-families-who-reunite-in-the-uk.pdf

Home Office Asylum Policy Guidance document:

Free Movement: Refugee Family Reunion – A User’s Guide:

Refugee Council report ‘Safe but not settled’:

Red Cross report ‘How reuniting refugee families can provide solutions to the refugee crisis:

Red Cross report ‘Not so Straightforward: The need for qualified legal support in refugee family reunion’:

Red Cross report ‘Voices of strength and pain: Impacts of separation, loss and trauma on reuniting refugee families’:

Red Cross report ‘We started life again: integration experiences of refugee families reuniting in Glasgow’:

Red Cross report ‘Still an ordeal: the move-on period for new refugees, 2018’:

UNCHR report ‘The Essential Right to Family Unity of Refugees’: