Syrian parents separated from children launch Red Cross campaign for family reunion reform in the UK

Published: 17 May 2016 15:21 CET

By Matthew Carter, British Red Cross

 For Muhammed and Amal Alwadi, fleeing violence at home meant losing the one thing they cherished most - their family.  Now the British Red Cross has launched Torn Apart – a campaign calling for greater support for parents like Muhammed and Amal to be reunited with their children through the UK’s existing family reunion scheme.

The couple are from Daraa in Syria. They fled to Libya with their four children shortly after the conflict began. Life in Libya became dangerous and they were increasingly worried about their eldest son’s education. Kusai, now 19, had been top of his class in Syria, but in Libya he had to work to help the family make ends meet. After two years in Libya, Muhammed made the agonising decision to leave Libya and head to Europe.

“I have been split into two halves,” he says.  Muhammed arrived in the UK in March 2014 and was granted refugee status in December 2014.

UK family reunion rules allow parents who have successfully claimed asylum to apply for close family members to join them, but not if their children are 18 or over. The British Red Cross is calling for these rules to be extended to include young people who were living with their parents at the time they were forced to leave their home country.

The couple, who left Syria shortly after the war began, are now separated from 19-year-old Kusai who is living in a camp in Calais, France, and their 20-year-old daughter Athar who is living in Turkey.  They have recorded a video message, appealing to the British government to allow families like theirs to be reunited.

Speaking of his ordeal, Muhammed says:  “Show me a father who can live far away from his children, in addition to living in a new country. We fled our home country due to war, bombing and destruction. Now I can no longer see them and they cannot see me.

Alex Fraser, Director of Refugee Support and International Family Tracing at the British Red Cross said:  “The Alwadi family are just one example of how current government policy is keeping families separated and alone, at a time when being together as a family is what matters to them most.

“No one should flee conflict only to endure more loss and pain simply because their child is over the age of 18. Any parent will tell you that the love and concern you have for your child does not lessen as they get older, and so that is why we are calling on the government to make a change to the rules and enable families to build a new life together, safe from conflict and persecution.”

The British Red Cross is asking the public to help by sharing the video and urging their local member of parliament to help reunite refugee families.