SHAFAQNA – If Britain still presents itself to the world as a responsible nation, a nation for which human rights, and human dignity mean a great deal, Britain’s attitude towards war refugees speaks a different truth altogether.
While Britain ambitions still to grand-stand over nations – a shining beacon of liberty and freedom, its very rules, and its government have actively worked to keep families apart … all in the name of bureaucracy. As Britain continues to champion wars in the Middle East … and as millions continue still to flee before the fires Britain, and other western powers lit up, war refugees are being denied their dignity.
“I need my children. I miss them so much – I hear their voices every day…but they are not with me.” Those are the words of a Syrian mother whose family is being kept apart by the UK’s reunion rules for refugees.
Amal Alwadi and her husband Muhammed are living in Sheffield after their asylum applications were accepted by the British Government.
But their teenage son remains stranded in a refugee camp in Calais, while their 20-year-old daughter is living in Turkey.
In a video message to Theresa May, they described the pain of not seeing them in nine months.
“We fled our home country due to war, bombing and destruction – my children and I fled to other countries in Europe because our home was destroyed,” Mr Alwadi, a former lawyer, said.
“Now I can no longer see them and they can no longer see me.
“They need me, for they are my children, a piece of me.”
The Alwadi family became separated in 2012 when a crackdown on Arab Spring protests by the Syrian government and ensuing fighting forced them to flee to Libya.
But when the security situation there became increasingly dangerous amid violence by warring militias, Muhammed made the treacherous journey across the Mediterranean Sea to Italy.
He journeyed onwards to the UK and after being granted refugee status in December 2014, he immediately began the process of applying for family reunion.
Almost a year later his wife Amal and their two youngest children Lin and Majd were granted visas to join him, but the couple’s two eldest children were refused because they were over the age of 18.
“I need my children, I miss them so much,” Amal said.
“I still remember their voices in my ears every day. I miss their laughter, our late nights together, having fun together.
“Our life is truly heart-breaking without them.”
Their eldest son, Kusai, was living with his sister Athar in Turkey but decided to make the journey to France last year and has been living in Calais for five months.
His mother said he is aware of nightly attempts by fellow asylum seekers to reach the UK through the Channel Tunnel but she begs him not to make the attempt.
The video message to the Home Secretary was recorded as part of the British Red Cross’ “Torn Apart” campaign.
The charity is campaigning for a change in legislation to extend reunification to include young people who were living with their parents at the time they were forced to leave their home country.
Alex Fraser, its director of refugee support and international family tracing, said the Alwadi family was just one example of how current policy is forcing refugee families through more pain and trauma.
“No one should flee conflict only to endure more loss and pain simply because their child is over the age of 18,” he said.
“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.”
The Red Cross cited the Children Act 1989 among the examples of legislation classing young people up to the age of 25 in some circumstances.
The charity is working to reunite family members in the refugee crisis, helping 606 people so far this year.
Nick Clegg is among the politicians supporting the Torn Apart campaign.
“This is about decency and compassion. Families like the Alwadis have already had their lives turned upside down by conflict, they shouldn’t have their families torn apart by petty technicalities in Britain too,” the former deputy Prime Minister said.
“I hope the Home Secretary will listen to their story and those of families like them and expand the criteria to allow more families that have fled war and persecution can stay together.”