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.
Our report, Without My Family, details how the UK’s family reunion policy harms child refugees. Based on in-depth interviews with children and young people, and the professionals who work with them, the report shows how the UK Government’s hard-line policy deliberately keeps child refugees separated from their families.
The impact of family separation on children is clear: constant anxiety, fear for the safety of their families, and in some cases serious damage to their mental health.
January 10, 2020
Fresh research published by the Refugee Council, Amnesty International and Save the Children shows that…