Amnesty's 'family-free zone' mocks UK laws separating refugee parents from children

To highlight UK government rules that are separating refugee families, on Saturday (March 2) Amnesty International created a ‘family-free zone’ on London’s Southbank.

To draw attention to a petition pressurising the government to act, Amnesty cordoned off a section of the Southbank as a no-family area.

Arranged by VCCP, the surreal stunt saw two security guards patrolling the ‘family-free zone,’ separating anyone group who looked like a family, telling them if they wanted to stay together, they would be unable to pass through the zone.

Families responded to the security guards with incredulous faces, aghast at the ridiculous of the request. The stunt thus powerfully hit home the sad realities for refugees, who have to choose between safety or family – something most people in the UK would struggle to understand.

Current UK laws deny child refugees the right to bring their parents to the UK, and vice versa, where parents are forced to leave any child over the age of 18 behind.

The ‘Families Together’ campaign calls upon the Home Secretary, Sajid Javid to amend the law. Despite efforts from Amnesty last year to get MPs to vote in favour of the Refugee Family Reunion Bill - progress is stalling.

Amnesty’s ‘family-free-zone’ is an extension of last year’s Southbank installation, where families were placed in a glass box over Mothering Sunday. The families were asked to carry out their normal routines including playing monopoly and watching TV, but when placed within the glass box, it made a spectacle of something often taken for granted; the wonder of everyday family life which many refugees are denied. The stunt helped encourage 13,715 people to email their MPs. 129 MPs voted in favour of the Refugee Family Reunion Bill.

Discussing Amnesty's latest stunt, its head of communications and engagement, Sam Strudwick, said: “Everyone should have the right to be with their families, but current strict and unfair rules are keeping refugee families apart in the UK.

“We want to show the government that there is still widespread public support to change this issue, by highlighting the ridiculousness of these rules. The ‘family-free zone’ parodies the absurdity of these rules and asks the UK public to back our call to the Home Secretary to change them once and for all.”

Jonny Parker, creative director at VCCP, added: "We're delighted to be helping support Amnesty International keep refugee families together. We had a great reaction from the public and we're hoping loads more will take action to make sure humanity wins on this issue."

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