September 6, 2021
Addis arrived in the UK in 2008 as an asylum seeker from Eritrea. She had left behind her husband and her 5-year-old daughter back home. She received a positive decision on her asylum case about 3 months ago, 13 years after her initial application. During the waiting period, Addis was left to rely on charities for support including housing and food and was moved frequently throughout the UK.
When asked about the impact of this prolonged waiting period she said ‘’I waited 14 years. I am tired. Everyone has a family, everyone wants to work, this is why we need a quick decision’’.
Speaking about her daughter was extremely painful for Addis.
‘‘My daughter, when I left she was 5 years old and now she is 19. I don’t know where she is, that’s why it was important I got the paper. It broke my mind, I have pain, a lot of pain. Every day I remember her because many times I asked for a family reunion but it wasn’t possible without paper. I asked organisations for help, they have looked 3 times at the Sudan border but they haven’t found her. No one knows where she is. I am tired.
The last time I spoke with her was in 2009. My auntie told me how sad she was, in pain and crying for me a lot. I want to try and travel to Ethiopia and Sudan to see if I can find her. One judge asked me why I left her behind. She has many problems with her heart which is why I didn’t bring her.
Im scared I wont find her, I am very stressed about this. If I don’t find my daughter what do you do next? Its very painful. Its very hard.’’
Under the current rules, parents are only able to bring their children who are under 18 to join them here in the UK. Addis’s daughter is now 19 meaning that she wouldn’t qualify for family reunion under the current rule. Addis’s story highlights the devastating impact of the inhumane waiting times in the UK asylum system, which keeps families separated for prolonged periods of time. As a result of the waiting period, Addis’s daughter has now fallen outside of the family reunion rules.
MP Caroline Nokes, former immigration minister, recently advocated for children over 18 to be allowed to reunite with their family in the House of Commons debate on Afghanistan. She rightly reminded the House, “Our children do not suddenly become independent because they pass a day over their 18th birthday”. We need to change the family reunion rules so that parents like Addis can sponsor to bring their children over 18 to join them in the UK. Families belong together, children need their parents.