After arriving in Britain in 2001, Amuun Mohamoud lost contact with her mother, who she’d had to leave behind in a Kenyan refugee camp. She spent years believing she’d died. However, in February 2012, the British Red Cross managed to trace Amuun’s mother, and put the two back in touch.
“Leaving my mother was one of the hardest things I’ve ever have had to do,” said Amuun. “After we lost touch I truly thought she was dead. The Red Cross did the most amazing thing and words can’t describe how it felt when I found out she was still alive.”
Amuun, 41, grew up in Somalia. But when civil war broke out in 1991, life became unbearable and the family made the decision to flee to neighbouring Kenya where refugee camps offered safety, shelter and food. “Somalia was not safe anymore,” says Amuun. “The militia were raping women, people were dying every day and there was no food.”
Kenyan refugee camp
“My first child, Zakary, was born in Utanga refugee camp, where he spent the first five years of his life,” says Amuun. “But life was very hard, we were never free.”
As the situation in Somalia continued to deteriorate, the family saw no prospect of returning home. After nine years in the camp, in desperation, Amuun’s mother Zara sold all her jewellery and other belongings. She made enough money to buy two airfares to Britain and it was decided Amuun would travel with her father, leaving behind her mother, brother and young son.
“I had no choice but to leave Zakary with my mum,” Amuun said. “Saying goodbye to my family was very hard, I wish we could have all stayed together.”
On arriving in London in 2001, Amuun and her father claimed asylum. Zakary joined his mother two years later, after Amuun’s father saved enough money for the airfare. The family kept in touch until 2004, when Zara decided to risk moving back to Somalia, as her son had fled to South Africa and she was on her own in Kenya. “But my mum couldn’t get a message to us,” says Amuun. “So we didn’t know she had left Kenya.”
Amuun decided to approach the Red Cross for help in June 2011. Eight months later, in February 2012, she received the call she had dreamed of: the Red Cross had traced her mother – she was still alive and living in Mombasa.
“I rushed straight home and bought a phone card so I could call my mum,” says Amuun. “She couldn’t believe it was me on the phone. She had also thought I was dead. We were both crying so much. We had so much to catch up on – she didn’t even know she had another grandchild, Amina, who is now three years old.”
Amuun and her mother now speak to each other every week, and send pictures through the post. “One day, we hope to see each other again,” says Amuun. “Until then we will make sure we keep in touch over the phone.”
Learn more about international family tracing.