The UK continues to be one of the world’s leading refugee resettlement states. Since 2015, Her Majesty’s Government has resettled more than 25,000 vulnerable refugees in need of protection through our refugee resettlement schemes, approximately half of which were children.
Whilst these numbers highlights the substantial effort made by Her Majesty’s Government, more should be done, especially regarding children and families.. In the year ending March 2020, over 7,400 refugee family reunion visas were issued to partners and children of those previously granted asylum or humanitarian protection in the UK. This is 37 per cent more than in the previous year.
The Prime Minister clearly set out the importance the Government places on ensuring unaccompanied children seeking international protection in an EU Member State can continue to be reunited with specific family members who are in the UK, as well as children in the UK with family in the EU, following the UK’s exit from the EU.
Relevant measures in the EU (Withdrawal Agreement) Act clarifies the role of Government and Parliament in negotiations. It is right that a statutory obligation to negotiate was removed from earlier versions of the Act to ensure the traditional division between Government and Parliament was restored, and the negotiations ahead can be carried out with full flexibility, and in an appropriate manner across all policy areas.
A statutory obligation to negotiate with the EU will not itself lead to an agreement. That is not in the gift of the UK Government alone as it requires EU co-operation at a time of complex negotiations. The Act required the Government to lay a statement before Parliament on its policy regarding any future arrangements between the UK and the EU regarding the family reunification for unaccompanied children seeking international protection. You may be reassured to know that the Government made this statement in March. Ministers also clearly outlined how the UK believes British withdrawal from the EU does not alter our commitment to this vital issue.
At the first round of the negotiations on the UK-EU future relationship, which also took place in March, our negotiating team outlined the UK's proposals as published in the document ‘The Future Relationship with the EU – The UK’s Approach to Negotiations’. In that document the Government has clearly stated its commitment to negotiate a reciprocal agreement in this area. It is good news that the Government has published a draft legal text as a constructive contribution to the negotiations and I understand the EU is now considering the UK's proposals.