Immigration rules should be amended to allow refugee children fleeing war zones to be reunited with family members in the UK, a Tory former minister has urged.
Tim Loughton MP (East Worthing and Shoreham) told ministers that the UK should adopt an EU scheme post-Brexit to ensure children do not have to make “perilous journeys” to be reunited with extended family.
Mr Loughton said that without his amendment to the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill, which brings aspects of the Dublin Convention into UK law, children would be “forced to take dangerous journeys and put themselves at risk”.
He said: “Under current EU law an unaccompanied child can apply to be reunited with his or her close family in any other state that’s a signatory of the Dublin Convention.
“There is a disparity however between the UK’s refugee family reunion rules and those Dublin III regulations because the UK’s own rules enable refugee children to be reunited only with their parents.
“Whereas Dublin III allows unaccompanied asylum seeking children to be reunited with adult siblings, grandparents, aunts and uncles as well as parents.
“This discrepancy has left many children with little choice but to make the dangerous journey to Europe to reach safety with family in the UK.”
Mr Loughton told the Commons that he was encouraged with the “sympathy” expressed by Immigration Minister Timothy Raison to his amendment.
He added: “It’s intended to build on the good work that the UK Government has done for so many thousand child refugees so far.
“It would show that the United Kingdom after Brexit intends to continue to be a leading force for humanitarian good outside of the EU.
“This is a system that works, we need to make sure it continues to work after Brexit.”