Trust response to Private Members Bill on refugee family reunion

14 March 2018

This Friday (March 16), the House of Commons will have a second reading debate on the Private Members Bill, Refugees (Family Reunion) 2017-19. 

Image of refugees from Doctors Without Borders

The Bill makes provision for leave to enter or remain in the United Kingdom to be granted to the family members of refugees and of people granted humanitarian protection; to provide for legal aid to be made available for such family reunion cases; and for connected purposes.

Our Refugee team, a specialist Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service at the Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust, supports this bill and have provided a response to our local MPs: 

“It is our duty of care to support the mental health and wellbeing of young refugees. A large proportion of the children and young people in our service arrive in the UK unaccompanied, after a perilous and traumatic journey from their home country. Many young people become separated from their families either as a result of being forced to flee their country of origin or during their journey to a safe place.

“The majority of young people we meet with have significant concerns about their families which is a great source of distress for them and a risk factor for further mental health difficulties. 

“Settling in to a new country without any family support is significantly more challenging, and we know from the research evidence that supportive family networks improve the mental health outcomes for young refugees. We are also concerned that separated children are often required to take on roles above and beyond that which would typically be expected of a child’s developmental level, adding to the stressors they experience while settling in to a new and unfamiliar country. These worries and stressors can increase a young person’s current sense of threat, which can form a barrier to providing the psychological interventions recommended for the treatment of mental health difficulties in young refugees.

“For these reasons we, as a mental health team, support the Refugee Family Reunion Bill. It is our professional opinion that this Bill is in the best interests of refugee children and young people, and the ability to sponsor family members to join them in the UK would support the emotional wellbeing of children and young people. In our opinion, this may also lead to a reduced need for social care intervention, as the young people would be supported by their families. “

Read more about The Refugee Council and their support for the bill in this Guardian Social Care Network article

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Our refugee service provides culturally sensitive support to refugees and asylum-seeking children, young people and families in north London.

We offer:

  • emotional support for parents who struggle to cope with too many demands
  • emotional support for unaccompanied teenagers seeking asylum
  • help to manage children’s or young people’s difficult behaviour at home or school
  • help for children and young people to deal with trauma and loss
  • help for children and young people to make more of opportunities to learn, in collaboration with schools
  • support for families to manage the challenge of living between cultures
  • support for parents to find their way around health and education systems, and manage the uncertainties of the asylum process
  • professional assessments and reports in support of asylum claims