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Three miles to happiness: a family reunion story

When Ali left Iraq and came to the UK in search of safety, he lost touch with his wife and son, and searched for them relentlessly. Little did he know they were living just miles away...

Ali came to live in the UK in 2017. His wife, Chnoor, and son, Ayub, stayed behind in Iraq but they kept in touch by phone and on Facebook until August 2021.

Chnoor and Ayub arrived in the UK the following year. They knew that Ali was living here, but they didn’t know where. So they asked the British Red Cross family tracing service to help track him down.

Finding Ali

After staff did some digging, a potential match was found in Leicester. Ali, it turns out, hadn’t had contact with the refugee service team since 2018. A letter was sent to the last known address they had for him, but they didn't receive a response.

Being separated from his family for so long caused a lot of anguish for Ali. As he recalls:

I thought about my wife and son every second of every day. It was hopeless but I remained strong. I smoked a lot and had difficulties sleeping.

Although it did seem hopeless, Chnoor and Ayub did not give up on their search. The family tracing team encouraged them to visit mosques, barbers and local shops to reach out to people who might know Ali.

Finally, there was a breakthrough in the family’s search.

“Ayub was attending a mosque for Friday prayers,” Ali says.

“He got into a conversation with one of the locals who mentioned me and asked how I was. Ayub said that he hadn’t seen me for a long time and that he didn’t know where I was. He showed him a picture of me and miraculously the guy recognised me. He said, ‘I know this man, I cut his hair’.”

Ayub put him in contact with the family tracing team who asked him to pass their number to Ali. It wasn’t long before the team connected Ali and Chnoor who were so relieved to be able to speak once again.

The family were astonished to find out how close they had been, with Chnoor and Ayub living in Wolverhampton, only three miles from Ali.

"I still feel like it's a dream"

The day finally came for the family to see each for the first time in seven years. It seemed fitting for them to meet at the British Red Cross office in Leicester, which quickly became an excited blur of hugs and happiness.

The moment the three were reunited, Ali was overwhelmed:

“The happiness was out of this world. I’m still shocked about the situation. I’m still in disbelief. When I wake up, I’m wondering if they are there or not.

 “Just being able to see each other again is the only thing I could ask for. That’s the best feeling ever.”

Learn more about how families are brought together through the family tracing service.

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