Rifat's story

In 2016, Rifat was 15 and living in the war-ravaged city of Aleppo in Syria with his parents, three sisters (aged nine, 15 and 16) and a younger brother (13). He was targeted for recruitment into an armed group and his parents feared for his life. Many other boys of Rifat’s age in the neighbourhood had already been taken from their homes and forced to fight for armed groups.

Rifat said that his family insisted that he would not leave the country and that they would stay together. He spent some time in hiding before his parents decided that he had to leave Syria. Rifat said this was the ‘last choice’ his family could make to save his life. Rifat’s uncle took responsibility for getting him safely out of Aleppo and across the Turkish border.

Rifat, aged 17 when he was interviewed, lives in the UK with a foster family. He has not seen his parents or siblings for about 16 months and has been unable to contact them by phone or text for some time. He does not know whether they are alive or dead; he is waiting to hear from the Red Cross. Every day Rifat moves between grief and hope as he lives with this terrible uncertainty.