Thomas was a boy soldier from the age of 12 in his home country. Later he defected from the army and was forced to flee on foot to a neighbouring country. Not safe there either he found help from an army officer and managed to travel to the UK.
Once in the UK it took Thomas two years to get refugee status and another year to get visas for his wife Sarah and two children, Taylor, 9, and Tina, 7, to join him. By the time they arrived Thomas had not seen them for five years. For much of this time Thomas did not know where his family were and was unable to contact them.
After four years they were located and they were able to keep in touch over the phone. During the time before that Thomas believed something had happened to them; ‘I thought they were kidnapped or killed. I was very worried and upset most of the time.’
A friend of Thomas’s contacted us and we were able to help him make arrangements for his family’s travel. Having already spent what he money he had on solicitors fees to make the visa applications he would not have been able to afford the flights. ‘Without the funding from the Refugee Welcome Trust my family would have still been out there.’ ‘When I saw them again I felt relieved and emotional.’
Sadly Thomas’s daughter Tamara, 5, was not granted a visa along with her mother, brother and sister. She stayed with friends the family had made whilst in exile for over a year before the appeal was successful and she was granted a visa to come to the UK. We’d stayed in touch with Thomas throughout the process and were able to arrange for his daughter to come over the week after her visa was granted.
Thomas was concerned about her travelling alone and thought he would have to go over to get her but we reassured him that the airline would take good care of her on the flight and worked with the travel agent and the airline to ensure that she wouldn’t have any problems on the way.
Tamara arrived in February 2014 and are finally together in safety.
‘My family is settling in well. They are in school at the moment studying English. We are very safe here in the UK, living together as a family for the first time. More importantly, my wife and I don’t have to be looking over our shoulders for dangers.’
‘I am studying mathematics to become a qualified teacher. My wife wants to work with vulnerable children after her studies. Our children are in primary school at the moment. We are looking forward to a successful life in the UK and to catch up on all that we missed out as normal kids.’
Names have been changed to protect this family’s identity. We thank them for sharing their story.