I come from Syria and came to the UK in 2016 with my wife and three children. My first impressions of the UK were that it feels very safe here; it is democratic and there is freedom. There are a lot of work opportunities if you know the language. We really like these things about the UK.
Back in Syria I was working two jobs, making money, and life was okay. I used to do electronic adverts on billboards all over Syria, and also had a delivery and distribution job. But when the war started and Daesh came, they messed everything up; it all went downhill.
We had to flee so we went to the border of Kurdistan and Syria. The first night we slept on the ground on the border, and then the next morning we were met by UN officials. They took us to a refugee camp and put us in tents. We didn’t get residency for another six months after that.
The war has split my family apart – my sister is in Belgium with her husband and children and my parents and two other sisters are in Qamshli, Syria, where the living situation is very bad.
The person I worry about most though is my younger brother, who is just 19 and alone in Kurdistan with no family to help him. The situation is very dangerous. Sometimes he sleeps on the street during hailstorms and cold. He applied to the UN for a tent but they denied him one because they said he didn’t need it. The Kurdish army caught him once and he escaped and ran to Kurdistan. He can’t go to Syria at all because they will enlist him to go fight if he did. I really worry about my brother.
As the rules currently stand my brother does not qualify for family reunion, which means I do not know when I will ever be able to be with him again. I find being apart from him heartbreaking, especially when I know that he is so vulnerable.
Syrian families, and especially Kurdish ones, are very, very close families and being apart really affects everyday life. My wife is apart from her family too and this has a really bad impact on her health and happiness. If we could be reunited with my family our life would be completely different; we would be so much happier and have much more energy to support our children. The loneliness is the problem, and our family abroad feel lonely as well. The most important thing for me is to be reunited with them and to live together in peace and safety.
Home Secretary, Sajid Javid, could make a vital difference to refugees with a simple stroke of a pen. As part of the Families Together coalition, the Refugee Council is calling on people to tell the Sajid Javid to do right by refugees living in the UK and enable them to be reunited with the family members they love and desperately miss.
We hope the Home Secretary will allow child refugees in the UK and give them the right to sponsor their close family, so they can rebuild their lives together and help them integrate in their new community; to expand who qualifies as family, so that young people who have turned 18 and elderly parents can join their family in the UK; and to reintroduce legal aid for refugee family reunion cases so people who have lost everything have the support they need to afford and navigate the complicated process of being reunited with their families.
*name has changed to protect identity