Hassan and Maryam are a Sudanese couple in their late twenties. After eight years of separation, they were finally reunited in Scotland in September 2021.
Hassan was forced to flee his home country and sought sanctuary in the UK, where he has been granted refugee status. With the help of his solicitor in Scotland, Adam applied for family reunion with Maryam and her visa came through at the end of 2020.
There were many uncertainties around international travel at the hight of the pandemic. However, nothing could have prepared the couple for the traumatic experiences that Maryam had to endure on her journey to the UK.
Hassan first approached Together Now in October 2020, so that a caseworker could support him with applying for an interest-free loan from RefuAid. This was approved a short while later and Hassan was able to book flights for Maryam.
Her journey to the UK was meant to be straightforward. However, she was detained for several nights at Addis Ababa airport, where she transited on the way to the UK. Her passport was taken away and she was given no information about what was happening. She was scared, and so was her husband.
Together Now caseworker immediately started with the advocacy process by contacting the airlines, airport, international organisations, Hassan’s solicitor, and the MP. Eventually, Maryam was put on a flight back to Sudan, but her passport was confiscated. The coupled had involved a solicitor in Sudan to help them get Maryam’s passport back after the court process that took several months.
Maryam received her passport back just a few days before her entry visa to the UK was due to expire. By that time, the UK government had implemented the obligatory hotel quarantine for all international arrivals. With a minimal income of Universal Credit, it was not possible for Hassan to afford such high cost of the hotel.
The caseworkers tried to advocate on the couple’s behalf with the Scottish government, the Department of Health and Social Care and the MP, but the couple were running out of time with the entry visa to the UK approaching the expiry date quickly. The only available flights that our partners Miles4Migrants could book at the time were to England. Flights were often getting cancelled last minute due to the international travel restrictions, so the couple were increasingly worried that Maryam would not be able to travel on the flights booked for the last day of her visa validity.
On the day of the departure, Maryam was prevented from boarding the flight at Khartoum airport and her passport was seized again. This confirmed Hassan’s concerns that Maryam was likely being targeted by the Sudanese authorities.
The couple got a solicitor in Sudan involved again and the passport was returned after several weeks. However, Maryam’s visa had expired by then. Both Hassan’s MP and solicitor worked tirelessly to get Maryam’s visa reissued through their correspondence with the Home Office.
Once Maryam’s visa had been reissued after several months, the couple were contemplating Maryam’s departure from the neighbouring country of Egypt to avoid further problems at Khartoum airport. It was evident that Maryam would benefit from additional support when travelling to the UK, so the couple were referred to the British Red Cross to be supported with their travel assistance programme.
With the support of the International Organisation for Migration at the departure and transit airports, Maryam arrived to Scotland in September 2021. When she entered into the obligatory hotel quarantine, Hassan and Maryam called the Together Now caseworker to say thank you. It was an incredibly emotional call for everyone.
Hassan said the following day: “I have a great feeling of happiness. And my family with her family. And I see you happy – that is very amazing. Thank you so much. Yesterday was a big night without thinking, without stress.”
After 10 days when Maryam had been released from the hotel quarantine and joined Hassan at home, she said: “Thank you for your time with us. There are no words that can express the extent of your help because it means a lot to me. With your presence and help, thank God, things have become easier. Thank you very much.”
Hassan added: “Without you I couldn’t do anything about my wife to come her and join me. But because you help me, it is easy and it’s so good for me. I feel so happy because people help, that means a lot that I’m not alone.”