'˜You can't imagine the pain this family are going through'
A SYRIAN couple resettled in the Lothians are desperately trying to reunite with their nine-year-old son after finding out he is still alive.
Mohammed Karou’s parents fled after he went missing, assuming that he had died in fighting between Kurdish and IS forces in north-east Syria.
After the family settled in Midlothian in March, Mohammed re-appeared in their home town of al-Malikiyah, but the family have struggled to bring him to the UK for six months without success. The child is currently with an aunt who is unable to look after him properly.
Home Office rules prevent Mohammed from rejoining his parents until a DNA test is carried out. However, to reach an approved centre that can carry out the test and process his visa application, Mohammed would have to travel to Lebanon, Turkey or Iraq.
“You can’t imagine the pain this family are going through,” said Midlothian MP Owen Thompson, who has taken on their case. “They have gone from the joy of finding out that their son is still alive to the agony and frustration of the last six months of trying to get him out.”
The family are being supported by Midlothian Council social work department, but have been given conflicting advice by the UK government.
“They were offered a Red Cross chaperone to take Mohammed across the border, but now the Home Office says that is not a good idea,” Mr Thompson said. “The border area is highly dangerous and he couldn’t be expected to go across.”
Mohammed’s parents fear their son could come to further harm without proper care in the midst of a war zone. Since his original disappearance, the nine-year-old has gone missing again, vanishing for two weeks before being found badly beaten and chained to a bin, according to Mr Thompson.
He raised the Karou family’s plight with the Prime Minister yesterday in parliament. In reply to Mr Thompson’s question, Theresa May promised that Home Secretary Amber Rudd would examine the case to see what help could be given to the family.
Mrs May said: “There are rules that allow family reunion to take place, and my Right Honourable friend the Home Secretary will look at the case.”
“Everyone understands there have to be rules but the thing with Mohammed is that we know where he is right now, but no one seems to be able to help him,” Mr Thompson said.
He added: “We need something to happen right now for Mohammed but we also know that he is only one of thousands of lost children in a similar situation.
“Current government policy is stacked against them. Just how are they expected to navigate their way across dangerous territory to even start the process of being re-united with their families?
“The policy of re-uniting children with their families has to be re-examined and I will be pressing the Home Secretary to do that.”
The UNHCR estimates as many as 70,000 children have been abandoned in Syria with up to 4000 having no family support whatsoever. Aid agencies say unaccompanied children are at heightened risk of violence and trafficking.