A comprehensive report by the British Red Cross examines the experiences of refugee families reuniting in the UK

A comprehensive report by the British Red Cross examines the experiences of refugee families reuniting in the UK

March 14, 2022

A new report released earlier this month by the British Red Cross takes a detailed look at the organisation’s Family Reunion Integration Service (FRIS) programme, which provides support and assistance to refugee families reuniting in the UK. United.

The 76-page report,Together at last: supporting refugee families reuniting in the UKdownloadable here.

The British Red Cross launched FRIS in January 2019 with Barnardo’s and Queen Margaret University. It covers all four UK countries and is partly funded by the European Union’s Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund (AMIF).

The program was launched to address the lack of formal support for refugee family reunification in the UK. FRIS helps families find housing, navigate the welfare system, register with health services and send children to school.

In its new report, the British Red Cross presents the findings of three years of the FRIS programme, drawing on data and testimonies from more than 1,100 families who have been supported. It details the experiences of refugee families reunited in the UK and highlights the main challenges they face, as well as identifying key measures that would improve their chances of successfully integrating into their new homes.

Through separate sections, the report examines families’ arrival in the UK and their subsequent difficulties in accessing housing, work, health and education.

The British Red Cross summarized the main findings of the report as follows:

  • There was a lack of pre-arrival support and information, which often meant families did not know what to expect when they arrived in the UK.
  • Due to statutory procedures which only begin when the family is reunited in the UK, many reunified refugee families have faced hardship when the arriving family joins the sponsor in the UK.
  • Reunited refugee families faced common barriers to accessing key services.
  • Upon arrival, the majority of the reunited families struggled to access suitable housing.
  • In cases where local authorities started their housing tasks before the arrival of family members, the time spent in unsuitable housing was significantly reduced.
  • When reunited families had no children, they rarely met the requirements of priority needs in England and were often left to couch surf and risk becoming homeless on the streets.
  • Ten percent of FRIS-supported refugee sponsors were in gainful employment when their family arrived.
  • When a sponsor was receiving Universal Credit when their family arrived, their application was canceled and all payments were stopped.
  • On average, families had been in the UK for 61 days – almost nine weeks – before receiving their first Universal Credit payment.
  • Families needed support to apply for and interact with Universal Credit.
  • On average, it took almost 12 weeks after arrival to receive child benefits.
  • Arriving spouses (84% of whom were women) were financially dependent on their refugee sponsor.
  • On average, it took 31 days after families arrived in the UK to register with a GP.
  • There was a lack of interpreters for GP appointments. Half of the families surveyed said they had used their partner as an interpreter.
  • Families faced long wait times to access mental health support after arrival.
  • Children supported by FRIS generally started school between two weeks and four and a half months after arriving in the UK.
  • Families often needed help navigating the school admissions process as it is complex and applications tended to be in English only.
  • Delays in children entering school not only have a negative impact on their integration but also on that of their parents.

The British Red Cross said: “None of the challenges reunited refugee families face and highlighted in this report are deliberate. Instead, they are unintended consequences of policies and practices that were not designed with them in mind”.

The report makes a number of recommendations, based on best practice developed under the FRIS programme, which the British Red Cross believes would improve the experiences of refugee families reunited in the UK and their prospects for successful integration. .

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