Friday, March 16, 2018

MPs back STAR campaign to reunite refugee families in the UK!

Cheers and applause rang out in the House of Commons for refugees today (16th March 2018).

In rare scenes for a Friday – normally a quiet time in Parliament – the Refugee Family Reunion Bill was backed by MPs and now moves onto the next stage where it will be looked at in detail by a Committee.

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STAR staff and students with Angus MacNeil MP

Speaking shortly after winning the backing of MPs without the need for a formal vote, Angus MacNeil, who tabled the proposed legislation said – “It’s a good day for humanity. This is for refugees!”

STAR was part of a major coalition of refugee organisation which had mounted a sustained campaign under the banner of #FamiliesTogether to get MPs to show up and support the Bill.

STAR groups took part in events large and small during our annual Action Week – with many writing letters to their MPs, delivering these in person, and to local newspapers asking their representatives to attend the debate.

There was also a Family Reunion rally in Birmingham with speeches from MPs and other groups – like Glasgow – took part in numerous actions to raise awareness of the campaign.

After today’s debate STAR’s chief executive – Emma Williams – said: “We are delighted that MPs have listened to the voices of so many students and other activists and have backed this Bill which would bring about so much good and reunite refugee families.

“Our students worked incredibly hard for a long time on this campaign. I am so proud of them and everything they have done. Together we will now continue working to try to bring this Bill into law.”

MPs were quick to acknowledge that the views of students and their efforts to highlight the aims of the Bill had been crucial to today’s outcome.

The proposed changes are around expanding the definition of ‘family’ used by the Home Office for reunification – meaning children who have refugee status in the UK would be allowed to sponsor their closest relatives to join then.
It would also introduce legal aid to help refugee families with their applications.

During a passionate three hour debate there were contributions in support of the measures from all sides of the Commons and from MPs of various political parties.

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STAR joins activists and MPs to celebrate

MacNeil had begun by saying “across the UK we have seen tremendous support – people want to do the right thing.”

Labour’s front bench said the measures were a “simple but important step”; with prominent backbencher, Yvette Cooper, commenting “this is about standing up for humanity against inhumanity.”

Bob Neil of the Conservatives told the House – “the Bill tries to improve the law and make it work in a fairer fashion.” His colleague, Anna Soubry made the point that “refugees are people fleeing a place their love – they do not want to leave.”

For the Liberal Democrats former leader, Tim Farron said: “this Bill matters – it is a test of our ability to act with compassion and common sense.”

Posted by STAR team on 16/03/2018 at 03:55 PM