THE harrowing stories of children caught up in the conflict in Sudan have been raised in Parliament as an MP pleaded for the Government to relax its strict refugee rules.

SNP MP Stuart McDonald, a former immigration lawyer, raised the plight of children trying to flee mortal danger in the war-torn African nation in a speech in Parliament on Wednesday night.

Sudan has been gripped by a brutal civil war, particularly along ethnic lines in parts of the country, since April, in which an estimated 9000 people have been killed.

Children whose siblings have claimed asylum in Britain are facing complex red tape and fees claim asylum in Britain, McDonald told MPs.

His comments came during an adjournment debate in which he argued the rules would make young people more likely to attempt the perilous crossing over the Channel in small boats.  

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The Home Office’s “family reunion” rules require those attempting to join refugee family members in the UK to submit biometric data – a scan of their fingerprints and a digital photograph of their face – before they can be brought to Britain.

McDonald told MPs the visa application centre, where the data would be processed, in Sudan was closed because of the civil war raging in the country – and said he was aware of instances of children being asked to submit their data despite this.

Others also face the difficulties of proving their relationship to their siblings, a health surcharge and proving they would face “harsh consequences” if they were not granted permission to travel to Britain.

He said: “Sixteen-year-old Adila fled to Sudan to escape persecution in Eritrea, including forced conscription into the army. 

“As a lone 16-year-old girl in a war zone, she clearly faces significant risks, and has already been displaced from Khartoum to a city in eastern Sudan. 

“She is struggling severely with her mental health. She seeks family reunion with her older brother who is a recognised refugee here in the UK. 

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“However, hers is one of a number of cases that cannot get off the ground, because as I say, as the Home Office insists she attends a visa application centre to enrol biometric information. 

“Because the centre in Sudan is closed, that would mean her having to make an irregular and dangerous journey to a neighbouring country to do that there.”

Those seeking refuge in Britain can ask to defer their biometric data enrolment until they arrive in the UK.

But McDonald said the Home Office seldom permitted this and have urged children such as Adila to make “dangerous” crossings into other countries where the visa processing centres remain open, arguing “that having crossed one border irregularly, […] she could manage to do it again”.

McDonald called on the UK Government to relax the rules around submitting biometric data for people, especially children.

If they were unwilling to do this, he added they must revise the rules in the extreme circumstances he had described.

The National: Robert Jenrick

Immigration Minister Robert Jenrick (above) said he “shared [McDonald’s] deep concern” about the situation in Sudan and said the UK Government was “committed to the principle” of the family reunion scheme.

He said the UK Government could not prioritise people fleeing the conflict in Sudan – arguing that others would be caught up in “comparable” conflicts.

And he insisted no specific pieces of evidence were required to prove relationships in family reunion cases was required, arguing applications were considered on the "balance of probability". 

Biometrics were important to protecting the UK's "national security", Jenrick added, suggesting people could pretend to be children and dishonestly gain access to the UK pretending to be a child.