“My name is Mohammed Omar. I am from Sudan. I had married a woman and she gave me three children, three boys. Then we got divorced, she left me the kids and she got married to another guy. The kids stayed with me until I was travelling to the UK (2019), so I left them with my uncle. I married another woman (my current wife) in 2003 and I have three boys also now.
I used to work in the national medical supply in Sudan, I worked as a technician, I used to work on medical equipment. My first wife continued her studying up to high school. My second wife has a university degree in agriculture.
I used to be in the labour union, I used to also be a member of communist party of Sudan (CPS). There were trouble with Islamic party, I have been arrested many times and tortured so many times then I found an agent who could get me out of the country. My plan was not to come to the UK because I didn’t think I could get in but the agent assured me and took part of the money and my uncle covered the rest of the money.
After I came here I applied for asylum and then I applied for family reunion. They refused my three oldest sons but the three youngest and my wife managed to arrive safely. Then I applied for my other three sons again and thanks to you I managed to get them to the UK safely.
The three younger sons entered school and they learnt English and now they are even helping me type this. The three oldest sons have now applied to college and will be starting in January studying English for speakers of other languages (ESOL).
And we thank together now they have helped me reunite my family together even though they have never know me and I am really grateful for their help and I will never forget what they have done for me and my family.”
Together Now volunteer caseworker’s perspective:
Mohammed Omar’s three sons, all barely in their 20s and living in Khartoum, received a positive family reunion decision from the UK government in April 2023. This coincided with the date that the war in Sudan broke out.
Mohammed contacted Together Now immediately after receiving the successful decision on his sons’ family reunion application. He said: “My sons are going to come [to the UK] but the situation in Sudan is very complicated … I need help with the [flight] tickets.” On that day the airport in Khartoum shut down completely.
The sons’ passports with their family reunion visas got locked away at the Visa Application Centre in Khartoum. They had received no advance notice about this from the Home Office and were unable to be evacuated to the UK. They were stuck in Khartoum, with no hope of retrieving their passports.
Together Now signposted Mohammed to his MP immediately. Mohammed’s family reunion solicitor supported him to contact his MP. Without the legal support, which is funded through legal aid for refugee family reunion in Scotland, Mohammed would have struggled to navigate the family reunion process.
A full month later, Mohammed’s solicitor and the MP achieved that the Home Office issued an official letter with passport copies to Mohammed’s sons. Mohammed said: “Still my children are in Sudan [but] the Home Office told us if they can flee to any neighbouring country, they will be able to provide them with visas to come to the UK.”
On 14 July Together Now received this message from Mohammed: “After a struggle they finally reached Ethiopia.” They were issued emergency single-use travel documents with family reunion visas to be able to enter the UK.
However, now they had to secure exit permissions to be able to depart from Ethiopia as foreign nationals. There was conflicting information given to the family by different officials. During this time the sons lived in precarious conditions, not speaking the local language and struggling to pay for living expenses. Mohammed said: “They’re in a hotel and is very expensive.”
Our partner organisation Miles4Migrants, who book flights for some of the families Together Now supports, were very patient and helpful with information sharing. They waited until the family finally got the exit documents and then booked the flights for them to travel immediately.
They arrived to the UK at the end of July to be reunited with their family. Mohammed said: “I don’t know if thank you is enough to you but I appreciate you all [for] what you did for my children and my family before.”
Together Now were working with Mohammed and his family from April to October 2023. This was in relation to travel assistance and securing flights to the UK, and also post-arrival guidance with the application to the Scottish Welfare Fund Crisis Grant on arrival, bank account information and signposting to local organisations to support with various post-arrival needs, such as welfare benefits applications and housing access.
Together Now also supported Mohammed’s brother to be reunited with his family during the Covid pandemic in September 2021. Together Now provided extensive post-arrival support, most significantly related to housing advocacy. Once the family were rehoused in appropriate accommodation, the case was closed in December 2021.