Protect refugees, keep families together

Protect refugees, keep families together

At an EU level, Ireland has been complicit in a failed migration system which prioritises border security over the needs of vulnerable people. While the numbers crossing the Mediterranean have dropped significantly since the peak in 2015, the situation for many refugees and migrants arriving in Europe has got worse. We have seen first-hand the devastation caused by Europe’s flawed migration policies – and instead want to present positive, alternative solutions.

Rohingya refugee Asia Bibi* cuddling daughter Nur*, 5, (left) and son Anwar*, 8, (right), who has jaundice, in their shelter in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh. *Name changed to protect identity. Photo: Abbie Trayler-Smith/ Oxfam

Cooperation with such as Turkey and Libya on migration issues must be based on respect for human rights and international law; promote inclusive, accountable and transparent processes; and work for the benefit of displaced people, migrants, and communities in host and destination countries.

To address these issues, the next government needs to:

  • Support shared responsibility for hosting refugees equally throughout the EU under a proposed new Dublin system.
  • Support the implementation of EU asylum system that is safe, fair and effective and that provides access to basic services to all asylum seekers.
  • Support EU and NGO search-and-rescue operations with the sole objective of saving lives.
  • Only support partner countries’ security systems when it contributes to achieving peace and stability, inclusive and sustainable development, state-building and democracy, rule of law and protection of human rights.
  • Address the specific needs of refugee and migrant women and girls and promote their role as leaders for positive and inclusive change.

In 2018, Oxfam Ireland produced a report A Family Belongs Together which detailed the human consequences of the Irish Government’s policy on refugee family reunification, namely the impact on refugee families and on their ability to integrate into Irish society. The report shows that family separation has a destabilising effect on refugees living in Ireland and contributes to deteriorating mental health and wellbeing.

When families are reunited, the presence of relatives can help speed up integration – not just for the new arrivals, but family members already living in Ireland. A family provides nurturing and coping strategies and helps to anchor a loved one in a new place.

The Irish Government’s current policy on refugee family reunification is too restrictive and only allows a very narrow group of family members to apply to be reunited. Oxfam is calling on the next government to:

· Amend the International Protection Act (2015) to expand the definition of family to include young adults who are dependent on the family unit prior to flight; parents; siblings; in-laws, and any other dependent relative.

 · Introduce legal aid for people seeking refugee family reunion through increased funding to the Legal Aid Board by the Department of Justice.

 · Waive the income requirements for those who have received international protection who apply for family reunification.

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