The Government has said that it remains committed to the principle of family reunion and supporting vulnerable children from around the world. There is no change in this policy.
The Government has a strong record of supporting child refugees as set out below and intends to seek agreement on the family reunification of child refugees with the EU. The Home Secretary wrote to the European Commission on this issue on 22 October.
• Over 41,000 children have been granted protection since 2010.
• The UK received over 3,000 asylum application claims from unaccompanied children in 2018 and was the third highest intake country in Europe.
• Over 5,000 unaccompanied children are being cared for by English local authorities. This is a 146 per cent increase from 2014.
• Over 27,000 family reunion visas have been granted for individuals joining family members with refugee status in the UK in the last five years.
• Over 18,000 refugees have been resettled in the UK under the Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme and over 1,700 under the Vulnerable Children’s Resettlement Scheme.
Clause 37 does not alter the Government’s intention to seek to negotiate an agreement with the EU on the family reunification of unaccompanied children. This remains the Government’s aim. The Government has said that clause 37 simply restores the traditional division between Parliament and Government when negotiating international agreements – namely that negotiating objectives should not be included in primary legislation and Parliament should not tie the Government’s hands in negotiations.
The Home Secretary has already written to the European Commission to commence negotiations on a future agreement on the family reunification of unaccompanied asylum-seeking children. An agreement on this issue is not, however, in the gift of the UK Government alone. It also requires the consent of the EU.