Sarah’s Story

April 22, 2021

My name is Sarah Alex, I am originally from India. In 2013, because of domestic abuse I experienced, I fled to the UK leaving behind my three daughters and mother. This incident made me the patient of PTSD. I started to take antidepressants and counselling on daily basis. I was an asylum seeker who had no place to go to except living in limbo waiting for acceptance of my asylum claim by the Home Office. My asylum application had been refused many times. The reason was my mother was alive to look after me, if I would return to my home country. Even though I told the Home Office that my mum was a widow woman, with no source of income and she was living on a little pension and my life would be in danger if I was returned.

Despite all of the difficulties my mum was still looking after my three daughters to keep them safe. I have spent 6 unpleasant years without my family. I was getting 35 pounds a week food voucher, as asylum support with no cash. Out of this small money, I was buying a credit and used to talk to my mum and daughters twice a month over the phone. But it was not enough as my mum told me that my daughters felt so upset without me and kept thinking about me all the time.

The Family Reunion Process

In 2017 unfortunately, my beloved mum passed away, may she rest in peace. My daughters became abandoned with no support. I was desperately waiting to see my children. But my solicitor told me “you are not able to bring them to the UK until your asylum application was successful.” In 2018, I made a fresh claim with piece of paper of my mum’s death certificate. And then finally I got the refugee status after losing my precious mum. Therefore, I request the Home Office to please care about the people who have left their children, mother, father, sister and brother on the bases of their individual circumstances. I have no more words to express my feelings about separation from my family. In short, it is very hard to be apart from family especially grown up children.

I was reunited with my three daughters after 6 unpleasant years in 2019. My youngest daughter was 7 years old when I left home; and she turned 15 and my older 2 daughters turned 18 and 21 years old when we reunited as a family again. When I got my refugee status, I did not have work or money and I had to borrow money from people to pay a solicitor’s fee that helped me to lodge the family reunion visa application. At the time of the application my oldest daughter was over 18 years old, in her 5th year medical studies and intelligent. I feel if it was not for her educational qualifications and good luck, it would have been hard to sponsor her under the UK Family Reunion Rules. I am thankful for the UK government for granting my daughter the visa to be part of the whole family. I am still paying back the money I borrowed from people and the British Red Cross assisted with the plane ticket for my children.

Changing the Current Family Reunion Rules

But I understand there are other refugees unable to sponsor their child because the child turned over 18 or because they have no money to pay a private solicitor for legal advice with the visa application. I would like to ask the Home Office to change the rules so that no families are separated. Without family life would have not made any meaning for me. I was in a bad situation and I could have killed myself if my family had not joined me. I am now optimistic, studying and living together with my children. My oldest daughter in 1 years’ time she will become a medical doctor. The younger ones, one is doing her GCSE and the second A Levels.

I now feel settled and happy, but I will not be able to reverse what happened – the time lost when I was apart from my family.