For many years the Refugee Council has campaigned for refugees living in the UK to be allowed to be reunited with their families in safety here. Current rules surrounding this are very restrictive which can have harmful consequences, seeing families that have already been torn apart by war and bloodshed elsewhere, being kept apart from each other in different countries and even continents.
Along with many other charities we are calling on the Home Secretary to change this, which he could with the stroke of a pen.
While there are many stories of refugees who are still living with pain and misery as they remain apart from their loved ones, fewer are told of the refugees who are able to reunite with their loved ones. Refugees like Ahmed. Here below is his story in his own words.
“I came to the UK in March 2015 with my mum when I was 28. It was the beginning of a new life for me, a real change from where I had been. I come from Somalia originally but grew up in a refugee camp called Dadaab in Kenya. I spent more than half of my life there—it’s where I got married and had my son.
“I came to the UK with real hope. Where I come from there aren’t many opportunities or jobs, nor did I ever feel as though I was free. You could never leave the camp. The education you can get in the camp is basic, for example you couldn’t get beyond secondary school level education. There was no university in the camp so if you wanted to get a degree in Kenya it would have had to be outside the camp and that would have been hard because we were refugees and not Kenyan citizens.
“I was happy when I arrived here. My two brothers came here before me and they really helped me to adjust, particularly to the climate—it’s so cold and it’s always raining! I haven’t been able to look for a job though because I work as a full-time carer for my mum who has dementia.
“There was one thing that felt very wrong though. I came without my wife and son so for me, life was not complete; I had to have them with me.
“The biggest hurdle was paying for a solicitor to help me complete my application for them to come here. It costs a few thousand pounds which I just didn’t have. I was also having to send money home to my wife and son to support them a bit as well. So I had to ask my brothers and some friends to help me. It took a long time for them to save up enough to pay for the legal fees, but they did it, in time. They knew how important it was for me to be with my family.
“With the help of the Refugee Council I put in an application for them to join me. Initially I was refused, which was very tough. I have to say I wanted to give up, I felt so flat, but Laura at the Refugee Council encouraged me to give it another go. She said I should be hopeful and was very helpful. We changed to a different solicitor and eventually, we were successful – I got an email to say that my wife and son would be joining me.
“The impact on having wife here has been amazing – it has made a total change. I had been very stressed before, (I even remember talking to myself at points) but when she came to the country I felt such relief and happiness. She did too. My wife really likes it here and has been able to help me with caring for my mum.
“Living with my son again has been amazing. Seeing him wake up in front of me makes me feel happy and proud. I love taking him to school. He will be 4 this December. I left him when he was 3 months old.
“When people you love live in separate places you feel such loneliness. Now, finally, I feel as though I have a future here.”
Ahmed came to the UK via the gateway resettlement scheme. You can read more about resettlement here.