Appeals against Home Office refusal to reunite separated family

Date of publication: March 16, 2023
This casework was developed from a pro bono matter:

These appeals are challenging the UK Home Office’s refusal of applications for family reunion in the UK, made by an Afghan family who have fled their home following threats made against them.

PILS member: Phoenix Law

What did PILS provide: A legal opinion through the Pro Bono Register and exceptional Litigation Fund financial support to cover professional legal fees.

Under the UK’s current Immigration Rules, parents and siblings of refugee family members in the UK who want to apply to join that family member but who aren’t dependant on them for care, must demonstrate ‘exceptional circumstances’.

In reality, this means that their applications need to show that refusing to reunite them could result in “unjustifiably harsh consequences”. This, as Free Movement have pointed out, is quite a high standard.

Abdul* has been living in Northern Ireland for several years, having been granted asylum in 2017. Originally from Afghanistan, his family were under threat from the Taliban and made the decision to relocate to Pakistan in an attempt to stay safe. Abdul was just 15 when he moved to Belfast as a refugee.

However, his family have not been able to join him. They are still in hiding, living in precarious circumstances underground in Pakistan, with no support.

Abdul’s mother, father and one of his siblings made applications to join him in the UK but all three were turned down by Home Office. Now, Phoenix Law are assisting the family to challenge these refusals.

On 16 March 2023, the three appeals were considered by the First Tier Tribunal (Immigration and Asylum Chamber) in Belfast. Abdul’s case continues.

[*Not his real name.]


These appeals, while prompted by Abdul’s own family circumstances, pose questions about the overall operation of the UK’s existing Immigration Rules and specifically, the Afghan Resettlement Scheme.

This challenge is quite unique as family members who are refused these types of applications are not usually in a position to appeal Home Office decisions in the first place: usually, they are in a third country and living in precarious circumstances without access to legal advice.

Phoenix Law’s legal team believe that the appeals can test the UK’s current policy in relation to family reunion, of Afghan nationals in particular, and scrutinise how the so-called ‘safe and legal’ routes described by the UK government actually operate in practice.