A project in which university staff and students work with refugees and the British Red Cross has contributed to a campaign to make it easier for displaced people to be reunited with their families.
Ahead of the second reading of MP Angus Macneil’s Refugees (Family Reunion) Bill today, Friday 16 March, a group from Plymouth’s Refugee Family Reunion project travelled to Westminster to take part in a parliamentary event organised by the British Red Cross. The charity is supporting the bill, which seeks to relax the strict rules around family reunion.
The event saw the Red Cross present a report on the impact of legal aid cuts for asylum cases, and MPs and others in attendance heard moving testimony from those with first hand experience.
One of these was Didier (not his real name), a refugee from Cameroon now living in Plymouth. He was accompanied by Senior Lecturer in Law at the University of Plymouth Rosie Brennan, Director of the University’s Plymouth Law Clinic, which supported him through the difficult legal process of being reunited with his wife and five children.
Didier told MPs he had spent almost three years in the UK alone before his family were allowed to join him. Although he produced extensive evidence about his family, his first application for them to come to the UK was refused.
A second, successful application was prepared, but despite support from the Red Cross, and legal work carried out pro bono by students and staff in the Law Clinic, the financial and psychological cost to Didier was severe. Although earning from his job as a tailor, he ate nothing but white rice and oil for days on end, as he channelled every penny he could into the costs of the case, and sending money home to support his family.