Didn’t the same God who made me, make them?
(Job 31:15 – The Message)
It was welcome news to many British Citizens and their families when, last week, the Foreign Office announced a deal with the airline industry to bring home thousands of stranded tourists struggling to get home because of coronavirus and the cancellation of their flights. Many have already made it home and more flights are being planned every day. Meanwhile, there is another group of people who had been told they could be reunited with their family in the UK, however, since the coronavirus led to the cancellation of their flights, they have received no help in seeing that dream become a reality. I am, of course, talking about refugees.
These are the refugees who under the Dublin III regulation had applied to be reunited with family members in the UK and had that plea granted by the UNHCR and the Home Office. However, since the virus outbreak, their flights have been cancelled and it seems no one is taking responsibility to see through their right of reunification. Ordinarily, the country in which the refugees currently reside would be responsible for arranging the transfer, but in many cases, these countries are cancelling direct flights and not allowing transfers by the non-direct paths that are still open. These, however, are not ordinary times, and charities like Safe Passage are calling on the UK government to recognize their obligation to help these refugees be reunited with their families in the UK by any route currently offered to British Citizens.
In Greece, for instance, authorities have stopped 52 family reunion transfers to the UK alone. Many of these cases will include children. Children who are being prevented from their legal right to be reunited with their families. It is thought there are likely to be hundreds of others across Europe.
This comes at a time when conditions for refugees in places like the Greek Islands are at an all-time low. In the often overcrowded and squalid environment of temporary refugee settlements, the thought of curtailing an outbreak of COVID-19 by social distancing and medical intervention on these islands is widely recognized as impossible. Yet it is here that many refugees with an agreed ticket – literally a plane ticket – to a better life with their families will have to go to survive, unless something is done.
In the best of times, we at JPIT have consistently highlighted God’s call on us to show hospitality to strangers. In these conceivably worst of times, how much more important is it for us to recognize our shared humanity with some of the most vulnerable children in the world and open up the doors (and airlines) of welcome?
The government are rightly doing a great deal to welcome home British citizens. Should that helping hand not also be extended to those refugees who also have a legal, and moral, right to come home to those they love?
How can you help?
Take Action – Write to your MP, and ask them to speak with the Foreign Office about extending support given to British Citizens abroad to those refugees who have had their family reunification applications approved and yet find themselves unable to be transferred by the usual Dublin III processes.
Pray – Pray for each and every one of the refugees across the world suffering extraordinary challenges, having been driven from their homes because of war and persecution. Pray especially that their hope of a better, safer and happier life might soon become a reality. Pray that the UK becoming a society that welcomes the stranger might be the conduit for that dream becoming a reality.
The UK Home Office have offered this statement in response to the issue:
“We are continuing to process Dublin cases, including children, as far as the current restrictions in place across Europe permit.
“It is widely known that arrangements to complete a transfer are the responsibility of the sending state.
“This is a fast-changing situation and we, along with EU member states, will be subject to wider decisions from respective governments, including travel restrictions related to coronavirus.”
Source: The Observer