On 25 November 2022, partner Milla Walker featured on BBC Radio 4 to give her expert opinion on the problems with refugee family reunion and ‘safe legal routes’.

BBC Radio 4 were following up an exchange during the House of Commons Home Affairs Committee between Conservative MP Tim Loughton and Home Secretary Suella Braverman about how the Government condemns people coming in small boats across the channel, but offers no safe and legal alternative.

Presenter Evan Davis spoke to Milla who handles these cases and is an expert in family reunion:

‘My ears pricked up because I am currently representing a young adult, legally in the UK as a recognised refugee from an East African country. One day he heard his younger brother, aged 16, had fled their home country as well and was now alone in the neighbouring and very unsafe country. My client made a paid visa application, including DNA evidence, as well as evidence from the UNHCR saying that his brother is recognised to be a refugee. He tried to make the application legally and safely as the government supposedly wants people to do, but he waited 15 months for the Home Office to actually make a decision.’

‘During those 15 months, there was no communication between us and the Home Office. They didn’t respond to any emails or any requests for extradition. When the refusal came, it was devastating for those brothers and the reasons that were given were poor.’

‘If you are in an unsafe country and you don’t have an established family network in the UK, there is no option. There is no safe and legal route at all outside of the Ukraine and Hong Kong applicants. If you have an established family member who has status in the UK, there are some very limited options available within the immigration rules. But they are limited.’

Davis suggested the Government may argue that if they made the application process frictionless and gave decisions within days, it would be too easy and there would be too many applications. Milla responded:

‘One thing I would say to that is it’s not easy to make these applications. You need to have a lawyer because the process is tricky; you often need to pay visa fees, you often need to pay the lawyer, there’s very little legal aid available for this type of work. The second thing I would say is that the Home Office has been operating policies on the basis that they want to have a deterrent for decades. If they make things too easy, then more people will come here. I don’t think there is any evidence that these kinds of deterrent policies are effective or succeed.’

When asked her opinion on the UNHCR scheme, Milla commented:

‘I have been representing asylum seekers for 17 years, and I have only ever come across four or five people that have been resettled to the UK via UNHCR. It is not something that operates on any sort of scale.’

The Home Office gave this statement in response: ‘Since 2015 we have offered a place to around 450,000 men, women and children seeking safety, including those from Hong Kong, Syria, Afghanistan and Ukraine.’

Click here to listen to the programme – available until 24 December 2022.

This article is for general information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. Please note that the law may have changed since the date this article was published. You should always take legal advice relating to your individual circumstances.