Story by Sophie Offord, British Red Cross
Mohammed was a lawyer who loved his job. But when he started to receive death threats, he was forced to flee his home country of Sudan. He had to leave his wife and young sons behind.
Thanks to the British Red Cross, they are now back together again – and rebuilding their lives as a family.
Mohammed, 41, is married to Safa and has two sons – Ahmed and Amjed, now aged five and two. They all lived in the South Darfur region in Sudan. Mohammed had spent his career helping those affected by conflict and human rights issues. He had worked at organizations including the American Refugee Committee, Oxfam and the United Nations.
However, in 2009, all the international aid organizations in Sudan were expelled by the country’s president. “Things were very difficult,” remembers Mohammed. “Partner organizations were closed down and threats were made against those associated with this kind of work.”
Mohammed left Darfur and went to Kampala, the largest city in Uganda. He stayed there for almost seven months – but the situation was as bad as Sudan. He decided to return to his wife and children.
The threats continue
Mohammed began working for the United Nations once more. But as violence intensified and the threats continued, Mohammed knew that he would soon have to leave the country again.
“I came to Birmingham in April 2013 on a business trip,” he says. “By that point, my situation in Sudan had become so severe that I faced no option but to stay in the UK. I applied for asylum and was granted refugee status.”
Alone in the UK
The heart-wrenching decision of leaving his wife and two sons, and the job he loved, was incredibly difficult for Mohammed. He made his way to Cardiff, where he moved in with a friend until he was able to find something more permanent. But accommodation was the least of his worries.
“My immediate concern was how to be reunited with my family,” he remembers. “I knew that the Red Cross supports refugees, so I contacted the British Red Cross in Cardiff as soon as I was able, to see if I could be supported by their travel assistance scheme.”
If a refugee meets certain criteria, the Red Cross will cover their travel costs so they can be legally reunited with their relatives or overseas relatives. After a year apart, Mohammed’s family arrived at Heathrow airport.
Reunited at last
“It was wonderful to see my wife and children again after being separated for so long,” says Mohammed. “It was very hard for Safa to leave her family behind in Sudan but we have plans for the future and we are safe here in Cardiff.
“We are slowly making a life in Wales. I am applying for jobs at the UN and other aid agencies. Safa will soon be attending English lessons and would like to continue her studies in the field of psychology and psycho-social support. Ahmed will be returning to school in September and Amjed is growing quickly, so we have lots to focus on.”
Helping other refugees
Mohammed is also volunteering once a week with the Red Cross at its destitution center, for refugees who are struggling to meet their needs or get enough food to eat.
“I am in contact with other refugees all the time, so I understand their needs and I know I have a great amount to offer other people in a similar situation to my own,” he explains. “I want to volunteer with the Red Cross because I have lots of experience and understand first-hand what it is like to be supported by the charity.”
Building a new life
Despite his volunteering role and his plans for the future, Mohammed’s thoughts often turn to his friends and relatives who are still in Sudan. “It was very hard leaving loved ones in Sudan – but there wouldn’t have been a life here either, without my family.
“The British Red Cross travel assistance scheme was vital in bringing our family together again.”
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