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14,000 people may die trying to reach safety as UK negotiates Brexit and new immigration rules

Oxfam urges new government to use changes to immigration laws to do more to help refugees

The global death toll of people trying to reach safety could reach more than 14,000 by the time Britain leaves the European Union, according to a new report released by Oxfam today. As the government prepares to set out its plan in the Queen’s Speech, it has an opportunity to help reverse this horrifying trend and show greater responsibility to refugees.

Using the latest available figures, the report projects how the global refugee crisis could continue to unfold between Monday 19 June, when Brexit negotiations are due to start, and the end of March 2019 when the UK leaves the EU:

  • More than 22 million people could be forced to flee to another country due to violence and persecution
  • Around 54,000 could reach the UK in search of protection and more than half (29,000) will be turned away
  • More than 15,500 refugees living in the UK may ask to be reunited with a member of family, but two out of every five (6,500) could have their request denied.

The Brexit negotiations will involve changes to Britain’s immigration system. Oxfam is calling for the government not to forget its responsibilities to refugees who have risked their lives in search of safety.

Mark Goldring, Chief Executive of Oxfam GB, said: “These projections paint a horrifying picture of the situation refugees are likely to face if Britain and other nations do not take action.

“As the government prepares to start Brexit negotiations, there is an opportunity for a truly Global Britain to show leadership and humanity by doing more to end the suffering of refugees.”

A refugee who is given protection in the UK can only bring their husband, wife or children under the age of 18 to live with them. Unlike in many other countries, an unaccompanied child that arrives in the UK cannot bring an adult relative here to support them. This forces families to live apart and some refugees to make dangerous journeys to the UK out of desperation. It also makes it harder for refugees to integrate and contribute to British society.

Oxfam is calling for some simple changes to the rules for family reunion to help refugees reunite in the UK. This includes broadening the definition of family so that unaccompanied children can sponsor an adult relative to support them, and parents can reunite with dependent or young adult children even if they are over the age of 18.

Goldring said: “A few simple steps could make it easier for families to reunite in the UK, and avoid the desperation that drives thousands of people to risk their lives in the hands of smugglers every month.”

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