July 21, 2020
Merhawi fled Eritrea in 2016, aged 14, after the authorities tried to force him to join the military. He was imprisoned in Libya, where he suffered unspeakable abuses, which still return to him in nightmares. When, a year later, a relative finally paid for his release, he made the dangerous crossing to Europe and spent time in Calais.
In 2018, he was transferred to the UK under the children’s transfer scheme, where he was recognised as a refugee and placed in the care of social services.
He had heard nothing from his immediate family since leaving Eritrea. Desperately worried, the British Red Cross helped him trace his mother and two brothers to a refugee camp in Ethiopia. His sister is in a monastery in Eritrea. Merhawi is now studying in Leeds but finds it hard to concentrate.
His mother is unwell and he constantly worries about both the future and his family. Social services cannot replace their love. A solicitor told him he cannot sponsor them under the refugee family reunion rules and that he does not meet the criteria to use other immigration routes. He believes that could they join him in the UK, he would have peace of mind and could plan for the future.