Home Office urged to show compassion over family reunion visas
The Home Office has been urged to show more compassion in handling visa applications for people hoping to be reunited with their loved ones in the UK.
Applicants are being turned away too readily, a report by the Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration (ICIBI) found.
Those applying for visas are often fleeing war and should be treated with more understanding, including being given better guidance on what they need to provide to succeed in being reunited with their family, David Bolt said.
People with relatives who have been granted asylum in the UK, or who have five years' humanitarian protection, can make an application to be reunited with them under current rules.
The policy applies to spouses, partners and children aged under 18.
The applicant must provide proof of their identity and evidence they are related in the way they claim.
The report hit out at the Home Office's decision two years ago to drop funding for DNA tests, saying this is likely to have been a "major cause" in applications being turned away.
It said the refusal rate for people from Somalia and Eritrea had doubled since 2013.
Mr Bolt said: "The family reunion report identifies a number of areas where the Home Office needs to improve.
"Applicants, stakeholders and others need to be reassured that the Home Office recognises the particular challenges facing many family reunion applicants, and that it manages applications not just efficiently and effectively, but thoughtfully and with compassion."
A Home Office spokeswoman said: "We have noted the findings of the Independent Chief Inspector's report, which confirmed that the vast majority of family reunion cases are decided correctly and within our customer service standards.
"Over the last five years more than 22,000 people have been granted a visa to come to the UK to be reunited with members of their family who have been given asylum here.
"We remain committed to meeting our international obligations through family reunion and are constantly reviewing our procedures to ensure applicants have their cases considered quickly, fairly and as efficiently as possible."