12 May 2016
- A Syrian mother and father living in Sheffield have recorded a video message urging the UK government to reunite them with their children
- The video, launched in time for International Day of the Family on Sunday 15th May, forms part of British Red Cross campaign Torn Apart
- The campaign is calling for the UK government to widen family reunion rules to include people over the age of 18 who were living with their parents at the time they were forced to leave their home country
A Syrian mother and father living in Sheffield whose family has been torn apart by war and conflict have recorded a video message to Home Secretary Theresa May as part of the British Red Cross campaign Torn Apart.
Muhammed Alwadi and his wife Amal, who left Syria shortly after the war began, have not seen their two eldest children for over nine months, with their 19-year-old son Kusai living in a refugee camp in Calais, France, and their 20-year-old daughter Athar living in Turkey.
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.
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.
“I miss their days and nights with me. I miss our meals together, our sleeping together, and our trips together, Amal continues.
The British Red Cross is launching its Torn Apart campaign ahead of International Day of Families on the 15th May, to raise awareness of the limitations of UK refugee family reunion rules.
The Alwadi family became separated in 2012 when the conflict in their hometown of Daraa, a province in the south of Syria, forced them to flee to Libya. When life in Libya became increasingly dangerous, Muhammed made the journey to Europe in the hope of building a safer life for his family.
After being granted refugee status in December 2014, Muhammed immediately began the process of applying for family reunion, and almost a year later his wife Amal and their two youngest children Lin and Majd were granted visas to join Muhammed in the UK. The couple’s two eldest children were not granted visas, simply because they were over the age of 18.
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. Their situation is heart breaking - refugee families who have already been through more pain and trauma than most of us can ever imagine, deserve better than this.
“No one should flee conflict only to endure more loss and pain simply because their child is over the age of 18. You do not stop becoming parents to your children when your child turns 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.
“All Muhammed and Amal, and thousands of other parents like them, want is to have the freedom to build a new and safe life with their children.”
The British Red Cross is urging the public to help by sharing the video and urging their local MP to help reunite refugee families at www.redcross.org.uk/tornapart.
Notes to editors:
Both UK legislation and international definitions consider young people to be up to the age of 24-25, for example with former looked after children in the Children Act 1989, the Children and Young Persons Act 2008 and the United Nations
British Red Cross is the largest provider of support to refugees and asylum seekers in the UK. Family reunion work has been a key activity of the British Red Cross since 1992. So far in 2016 the British Red Cross has reunited 606 family members through its travel assistance programme.
British Red Cross helps people in crisis, whoever and wherever they are. We are part of a global voluntary network, responding to conflicts, natural disasters and individual emergencies. We enable vulnerable people in the UK and abroad to prepare for and withstand emergencies in their own communities. And when the crisis is over, we help them to recover and move on with their lives.