Na h-Eileanan an Iar MP Angus MacNeil is bringing the issue of reuniting refugee families back to the House of Commons today (Thursday) when he leads a backbench business debate on his Refugees (Family Reunion) Bill.

Coinciding with Refugee Week, Mr MacNeil is also very pleased to have been able to assist in the reunion of a refugee family in his own constituency – making him even more determined to push for changes to the laws which are currently keeping families apart.

Mr MacNeil said: “Under the Home Offices’ rules, adults with refugee status in the UK are able to sponsor their spouses/partners and their children under 18 to join them. It’s hard to imagine just how much joy and relief must come at that moment of reunion.

“But the restrictive nature of those rules, and the limited definition of family contained within them, leaves many unable to experience that joy. Children over 18 are not covered, nor are elderly parents or nieces and nephews. How many parents think their children stop needing them just because they’ve had their 18th birthday?

“The UK does not allow refugee children any family reunion rights at all, the only country within the EU to do so. Children who have been recognised by the Government as being in need of protection, and for who it is not safe to return home, are not able to be joined by even their very closest relatives. Instead, children have to try and rebuild their lives in a new country without their parents to support them.

“I believe that families belong together, and that these rules are overly restrictive. That’s why, when I was selected in last year’s Private Members’ Bill ballot, I chose to introduce a bill to make some modest changes to these rules and help more families torn apart to be reunited in safety.”

This debate comes in a week when the US Government has caused international outrage for the treatment of asylum seekers at the US/Mexican border where children have been forcibly separated from their parents.

The Bill is supported by MPs from across the House of Commons, as well as organisations including the Refugee Council, British Red Cross, Amnesty International, Oxfam GB and UNHCR. It successfully passed its Second Reading in March and is awaiting the next stage.

Comhairle nan Eilean Siar this week gave their full support to the Bill.