July 5, 2021
In 2018, my ex-husband came to the UK as asylum seeker. Because of the conflict in Syria we first escaped to Kuwait. My partner was wanted by the Syrian government and we had to flee to find security and safety. He continued his asylum journey to find safety and he travelled from Kuwait to Greece and from there he entered by plane to the UK. He was granted refugee status after around 1 year and together with my children I joined him on a family reunion visa.
The Family Reunion Process
My experience of family separation was extremely difficult. When he was granted refugee status, he paid a solicitor for support with the family reunion application and the paperwork. As a newly granted refugee he had no money, but he had to find money to pay for the service; this shows the challenges of accessing the family reunion service in the UK. At the time, myself and the kids were waiting in Kuwait and hoping for family reunion. I was unable to return to Syria because of the conflict.
The visa application process was complicated and difficult. We were asked for many, many pieces of evidence to show that we are a family. I supported the application with 130 family photos showing him with the children and me and lots of documents as well, like marriage documents and birth certificates. Lots of evidence that proved that we are Syrian, we are a family and we are waiting for reunion with our sponsor.
In the initial decision, we were told that our visa application was refused, and no reason was given to us by the visa centre. When I asked about the reasons, the centre said “no reasons were provided from the Home office!”. That put me in depression and gave me anxiety. I became vulnerable, the mental health problems exposed me to a huge pressure, and my children were just four and six years old. I was left in Kuwait, I was not getting enough money from the work I did, and was living with friends, and I was just waiting for my ex-partner to get his immigration status in the UK and to make the family reunion and hoping everything will be okay and my life will resume. BUT we were refused the family reunion visa. That decision really affected us all badly.
After around one month the visa office told me there was a mistake in the initial decision and that I could come to collect the passports. This shows how many chaotic things that might happen in the family reunification process. The impact of being separated from my partner was huge to me and the children. I became vulnerable – we were waiting for him to sponsor us. The children were asking about their father all the time.
The Impact of Family Separation
I was living with a friend because I couldn’t afford rent. My salary was so little, I couldn’t rent. The small salary I was getting was just for basic things such as to pay for the children’s school, for transportations, and I had shared the rent place with a friend, and I was completely vulnerable. Therefore, I developed mental health problems. I was living with depression and anxiety. In this frozen process, I lost weight – 30 kilos. My situation was very bad.
It was really, really, frustrating, and I could describe it as a slow frozen system. Yeah, lots of ups and downs. I mean, lots of downs and little ups. But when the visa office rang me to tell me that the visa was ready, and I could come to collect the passport, my happiness was unmeasurable. I was running, dancing, and jumping. I was so happy. The time to take the flight to join my husband had arrived. But the waiting time had a very negative impact on our relationship. All of us were so frustrated. The family separation and the difficult asylum journey affected his mental health. He did not speak English, he couldn`t integrate, he isolated himself. When I came here to the UK, I felt like oh, everything would be okay.
We are reunited, we are a family now. We were separated for a long time and I had lots of duties on my shoulder and lots of dreams about the future. Family separation is a worrying period, we had a lot of questions: What if we were refused? What will happen? What’s the next step? Lots of frustrating things.
The Impact of the New Plan for Immigration
The new Home Office Immigration Plan on family reunion will make families completely separated. The UK government and all the governments around the word receiving refugees, their first duty should be to reunite the families, to protect the families, to protect the children and to protect the mothers. To support refugee women, not to make them frustrated, not to make them vulnerable, not to make them without their families, and not to leave them without their backbones – families are their support and backbone. I mean, the UK government should do more to reunite families, and not to develop policies that separate and destroy the dreams and safety of refugee families.
If implemented the new plan it will give really, really, bad negative impacts on the children’s future, and on their personalities. Refugee women need support to be able to support their family and to feel safe. Especially the women who came from Asia and the Middle East. They are raised in a culture that treats the woman as vulnerable, as a person with no rights and that cannot do anything without a husband. The implementation of the new immigration proposal will hugely impact refugee mothers and their families, it’s difficult to be left alone and live in such situations. This will affect women’s mental health and well-being.
This plan will destroy the families and badly damage the future of refugee’s children and bring a negative impact on the families’ mental health. I want to ask the government and the Home Office when they put this plan if they have thought about these people? How can they integrate in the community if they are separated from their families and their loved ones? Because of these plans asylum seekers and refugees will face lots of mental health issues and their integration hindered. All these in turn will have negative impacts on the UK society as well and I want to ask the UK government to develop a better and humane policy that sees asylum seekers and their families as humans and with dreams.