Why you should back our campaign for refugee kids

It’s impossible to imagine what it must be like to hide for months in a forest near Calais, or live for years amid the squalor of an overcrowded refugee camp in Lebanon or Greece. But if you’re a young refugee on your own, that’s how you’re probably living – scared, lonely and at risk of trafficking or sexual abuse.

You have no possessions and no resources, only the memories of the death and destruction you witnessed daily back home, the fear and anxiety that you felt on the journey and uncertainty that you will ever make it to Britain, where your brother now lives. 

Standing in the way of you being reunited with your family is the bureaucracy you meet at the camp.

There is a lack of proper, transparent information. As a result, many young people are left in limbo, sometimes for months. 

So you may well feel that the only way to be reunited with that brother means hiding in a sealed, airless container in the back of
a lorry, or clinging onto its undercarriage. 

If you ever make it to Britain in one piece, will officials believe your story? If you are reunited with your brother, what will it be like living with him? And will you be able to resume your education and become that teacher you always dreamt of being?

Seventeen-year-old Nabil from Syria is one of thousands of young refugees who know all about this kind of trauma. He found himself alone in Lebanon after fleeing his bombed home in Syria. Several of his family had been killed. Those who were alive were scattered far and wide, including his older brother, who was living in safety in Scotland.

Boarding a plane to join his brother was not an option because, under UK immigration rules, siblings are not eligible for family reunion. Instead, he made his way alone, by land and sea, to France, nearly drowning when his boat capsized in the Aegean.

In France he endured six months in the Jungle in Calais, was held in detention and risked his life repeatedly in desperate attempts to reach his brother by boarding lorries to the UK. Then, after many months, Nabil discovered he was entitled to apply to join his brother under EU law. He is now in Scotland, waiting for a decision on his asylum application, and eager to start his life again.

New beginnings are something we think a lot about during Rosh Hashanah.

During this high holy day period, we have time to reflect on the many demands and obligations made on us – personal, societal, communal. We do this in the presence of our family, friends and community.  It’s an appropriate time to think about other families in difficult circumstances, and how government action can enable some of them to be reunited and make a fresh start.

Our campaign, Let The Children In, asks the government to change British law to allow all refugee children who have close relatives in the UK to be allowed to join them promptly and safely, so they are protected and not forced into making dangerous journeys, risking exploitation at every turn in their attempt to reach the UK.

Soon the shofar will sound, calling us to action. We must now call the government into action to simply do the right thing.

Find out more at jcore.org.uk/let-the-children-in

About the Author
Dr Edie Friedman is Executive Director of The Jewish Council for Racial Equality
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