A-list celebs come out in support of child refugees
Helen Mirren, Patrick Stewart, Coldplay and Kate Moss are among a group of 70 celebrities who have signed an open letter demanding that the British government do more to create safe and legal routes for refugee families to reunite in the UK.
Current rules mean only adult refugees are able to apply for spouses or children under the age of 18 to join them in the UK. Refugee children, however, are not eligible to apply for their own parents or siblings over the age of 18 to reunite with them in the country.
Backed by dozens of celebrities – from actors and musicians to models and football stars also including Ware, actors Chiwetel Ejiofor, Vanessa Redgrave, Joanna Lumley and Olivia Colman, former footballer Gary Lineker and writer and presenter Stephen Fry – a new petition seeks to change the law.
Launched by the Families Together coalition, which includes Amnesty International UK, the UN Refugee Agency, Refugee Council and the British Red Cross, the petition calls on the British government to make it easier for refugee children to be reunited with their loved ones in the UK.
In one story published by Families Together, Merhawi Hagos, an 18-year-old refugee from Eritrea who came to the UK after being separated from his mother at the age of 14, said that life without his family members has become unbearable.
With his family still forced to remain at a refugee camp in Ethiopia, Hagos said: “I have found the experience of living without a family to be unbearable…I cannot plan, I cannot focus on my work or studies. I feel lonely and depressed and do not sleep well.”
In an interview with The Guardian newspaper ex-footballer Gary Lineker said he believed that making the “simple change to the rules could be transformational” for families like Hagos’s.
“There are children in the UK right now who have fled war and persecution and have no hope of seeing their parents or siblings again. “We should be offering them support and compassion,” Mr Lineker said,
The petition comes as controversies rages over the issue of migration to the UK, with the country seeing a rise this year in the arrival of migrants and asylum seekers traveling by boat.
So far, nearly 7,000 migrants and asylum seekers have arrived in the country after crossing the English Channel in small boats, with the number being three times that of arrivals throughout 2019, according to reports.
Humanitarian groups have been advocating for safe and legal routes for migrants and asylum seekers into the UK without having to risk the dangerous sea journeys. But the UK government has maintained a hardline approach on immigration.
The UK’s Home Office, which oversees migration, dismissed the possibility of allowing children to sponsor their parents to come to the UK, citing the potential for criminal gangs to split families and send children on dangerous journeys alone.
The British government already provides a “safe and legal route to bring families together through its refugee family reunion policy”, the Home Office said.