September 27 2023

Child refugees stranded in Sudan can travel to the UK at their “own risk”, says Home Office

Child refugees stranded in Sudan can travel to the UK at their “own risk”, says Home Office

Life in the justice gap: illustration from Proof magazine, issue 3. Simon Pemberton

Charities say the British government is “not doing enough” to facilitate family reunions with safe and legal routes from Sudan, where a conflict has destabilised the capital, Khartoum. British ministers have not tried to help those entitled to family reunion to escape the fighting.

People with refugee status in the UK are entitled to apply to bring their family members to reunite in the UK, one of the few safe and legal routes open to asylum seekers. The Home Office requested family members seeking to use this route to supply their biometrics at a visa application centre in a country near Sudan. However, ‘travel across Sudan is conducted at [one’s] own risk.’

‘Suella Braverman has said no one fleeing Sudan should travel to the UK by boat but the closure of Khartoum’s visa application centre makes it impossible to even apply to come here,’ said Nick Beales, head of campaigns at the charity Ramfel.

Beales is helping UK residents trying to bring lone child refugees stranded in Sudan to the UK. The level of risk these children are exposed to includes kidnapping, trafficking and exploitation. ‘The government’s inadequate response has left vulnerable children with clear family ties in the UK in grave danger,’ he added. Beales said the government’s approach is “disgraceful”, and Ramfel stated that Robert Jenrick MP ‘says refugees from places like Sudan don’t share undefined so called “British values”’.

The Home Office is being accused of adopting an “unashamedly racist” refugee system after refusing to facilitate safe and legal routes from Sudan to the UK, in contrast with the Ukraine schemes. ‘The racism of the UK’s immigration system couldn’t be more clear, with this government drawing policies affecting people seeking safety along stark racial lines. At the same time, ministers are using unashamedly inflammatory and far-right language, whipping up hatred towards black and brown migrants,’ says Caitlin Boswell, Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants policy and advocacy manager.

‘We are treated differently to Ukrainians. Colour and race should not matter when there is a war. The prime minister needs to answer, “What is the difference between a Ukrainian refugee and a Sudanese refugee?”’ said Raga Ahmad of the Sudanese Community and Information Centre.

Even those eligible for evacuation by the UK last week were told that they would be safely evacuated but would have to leave family members behind in Sudan. A British national was told by an official that he can travel with his two children, but would have to leave their pregnant mother behind as she was a Sudanese citizen.

‘The UK has carried out by far the longest and largest evacuation of any western country from Sudan, bringing 2,450 people to safety. Preventing a humanitarian emergency in Sudan is our focus right now. Alongside the UK evacuation effort, we are working with international partners and the United Nations to bring an end to fighting,’ a government spokesperson said.

‘This government should be doing everything it can to help refugees reach safety and family here in the UK,’ said Emily Graham, Head of campaigns at the charity Safe Passage International.