Dear Family: Refugees in Greece write to their loved ones

james General, Humanitarian, Refugees and IDPs

Forced migration separates families. It wrenches children from their parents and grandparents, separates siblings, forces partners to live apart, and destroys extended family networks. During the past months Oxfam has interviewed people that have been stranded in Greece and asked them to share their experiences during their perilous journeys to Europe and the separation from their families.

The right to family life and the protection of the family is a shared value that cuts across cultures. People in Greece who were separated from their family talked to Oxfam about the severe implications of separation in their lives and wrote letters to their loved ones in other EU member states. Abdul from Herat, Afghanistan hopes to reunite with his wife and son in Germany. He wrote a heart-warming letter to them, while he waits for his family reunification request to be processed in Epirus.

“Greetings to my wife Zahra Ahmadi and to my dear son Mohamad Taha Jan that are now in the city of Hamburg, Germany.

I hope both of you are in good health and spirit. I hope one day I will be next to you and once again we live together. May God protect both of you.

With respect,

Abdul Algafar Ahmadi”

Najat fled with only a few members of her family from the town of Afrin, Northern Syria and she now lives in Epirus, in Greece. She hopes to reunite with her oldest son who arrived in Germany in 2016.

“My dear son Mohannad,

how are you? How is your health?

I am your mother in Greece. Thank God that we are OK, nothing is missing, except seeing you and your brothers. How’s your health, and everything else?

Let me know about yourself.”

The EU, and its member states, are failing to protect the right to family life for migrants, including refugees, as Oxfam’s new policy brief ‘Dear Family’ showcases. Their policies and practices are tearing families apart, forcing them to continue living apart after being separated during displacement and exposing people to risks.

Hazem, a 20-year-old Syrian asylum seeker who lives in Greece, shared his feelings about the separation of his family. He sends a powerful message to European governments:

“I am almost 20 and I live in an apartment in Ioannina, working as an interpreter/cultural mediator for an NGO called Terre des Hommes. My main work is in the community center of Ioannina.[…]

I am in touch with my family, my mum, who has stayed with my little brother back in Syria, my brothers, who are in Germany, and my sister, who lives in a camp in Konitsa. I haven’t seen my brothers for two years and my mum for almost a year and a half. […] My mum and my brother are still in Syria. We couldn’t find a way for them to join us in Europe or even to be in a safe site [in Syria]. Now, they are a bit safer because of the ceasefire in Idlib […] But anyway, this is not a permanent solution, it is just a painkiller!

We are still human, please, support family reunification and give it more importanceHazem
Honestly, I miss my mum the most, I miss her hugs, her presence inside our home, her delicious food, and everything related to her. I am still stuck in Greece, I have a strong desire to continue my studies in medicine which were interrupted due to the conflict, and I want to study cultures and religions as well, how they affect each other, and how to approach people from different backgrounds. […] I want to take the next step and learn a new language and integrate with the society. […] It is still hard to feel stable. I am worried about the rest of my family and this is a real challenge. Regarding that, I have something to say to the European governments: We are still human, please, support family reunification and give it more importance […]. Because people are suffering from family dispersion and I am one of them. […]”

How will the EU respond to Hazem, Najat, Abdul and so many others like them?

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