This year marks 100 years since some British women first won the right to vote. This ground-breaking victory came as a result of the work of the Suffragettes, ordinary women who stopped at nothing to get their voices heard.

 

The Suffragette spirit is alive and well in Britain today as women continue to fight for their rights.  Amnesty International UK is proud to support the All Women Count refugee and migrant women lobby of Parliament on 8 March 2018. It is crucial to press British decision makers to make progress on preventing violence against women, improve migrant women’s access to healthcare, education and employment, and take action against the harmful impacts of immigration detention.

 

MPs will have another opportunity to support refugee women on 16 March, when there is a crucial Parliamentary vote on the issue of Refugee Family Reunion. MPs will debate an important bill that could make vital changes to the current rules and reunite refugee families, but we need at least 100 MPs to turn up and vote.

 

Separation of families can have a devastating impact on peoples’ lives, their rehabilitation from experiences of trauma and their ability to integrate and adapt to their country of asylum. The UK’s restrictive refugee family reunion rules are keeping families apart. Adult refugees can sponsor only certain relatives to join them – their partners and children under 18 years old. Refugee children in the UK have no family reunion rights at all, so can’t bring their parents to join them.

 

When family reunion is not possible and family members are refused, people may feel the only option to bring their family back together is to take dangerous journeys to the UK through irregular channels. Women travelling alone face specific risks of violence and exploitation, which has been widely documented.

 

A British Red Cross report highlights the complexity of the current family reunion process in the UK that makes it difficult for families to be safely reunited.  While the majority of sponsors were men, 95% of those trying to reach their family members in the safety of the UK were women and children. The current system is particularly exposing women and children to violence and danger, including abduction, rape and incarceration.

 

Imagine going through so much and not being able to join your loved ones, unable to build a new life together in a safe but unfamiliar place. A new report by Oxfam and the Refugee Council looks at how ongoing forced separation from loved ones prevents refugees from successfully integrating into UK society.

 

This situation cannot go on: Amnesty International UK is working with the British Red Cross, Oxfam, Refugee Council, Student Action for Refugees (STAR), the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and many others to ensure families can be together.

 

We need everyone to write to their MPs to ask that they vote on 16 March for:

  • Child refugees in the UK have the right to sponsor their family to join them, so they can rebuild their lives together and help them integrate in their new community.

  •  An expansion of who qualifies as a family, so that young people who have turned 18 and elderly parents can live in safety with their relatives in the UK.

  • The re-introduction of legal aid, so refugees who have lost everything have the support they need to afford and navigate the complicated process of being reunited with their families.

 

Please support and join refugee and migrant women  to demand safety, dignity and liberty for all women: join the mass lobby on 8 March and write to your MP.

 

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