Syrian refugee pleads for help to be reunited with son he feared was dead
THE father of a young Syrian boy believed to have been killed in fighting four years ago has spoken of his joy at finding out his son is still alive.
Abedel Karou, 35, who has resettled in Dalkeith with his wife and two other children, discovered in May that the nine-year-old had returned to his home town after disappearing during a raid by IS in 2012.
The family assumed Mohammed was dead after a heartbreaking search before fleeing to the Lebanon to escape the war zone, where they stayed before arriving in Midlothian in March.
Last night, Mr Karou said: “I cried when I found out he was alive and his mother fell to the floor. It was like the best birthday party ever.”
He told the Edinburgh Evening News that his son has no recollection of where he has been for the last four years and is suffering badly from spending his formative years on the battlefront.
The child is currently living with Mr Karou’s sister, who has had half her house destroyed and is struggling to cope.
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.
His case has been taken up by Midlothian MP Owen Thompson who raised the Karou family’s plight with the Prime Minister on Wednesday in parliament.
Mr Karou, a former restaurant worker from the town of al-Maliki-yah, said he has spoken with Mohammed on the phone but does not know if he’s being fed properly or has enough clothes to wear.
He said: “He’s not eating well now and has nothing to wear, he’s in a really miserable area and I don’t know if he’s sleeping well.
“Imagine how a nine-year-old boy feels having found himself homeless and on the street with no-one to look after him.
“The example I would give is it’s like a bird leaving a nest full of chicks, that’s how I feel.
“I’ve got my sister taking care of him but she can’t control him, because he’s been away for five years and has suffered during the war.”
He added: “She can’t keep him at home, every day he leaves from the morning to the evening and she has to send someone out to look for him and bring him back to sleep – he needs help in what is a miserable situation.
“My son misses his family and is always crying. He says: ‘I want my daddy, I want my mum and my brother and sister.’”
“Part of my sister’s home has been destroyed and the area is not safe – as I mentioned, my son is gone from the morning until midnight, that’s why I’m worried about him.
“I’m worried about the whole family but that’s my son.
“He’s not being controlled by his parents, so it’s very hard to give him the discipline he requires.”
SNP MP Owen Thompson called on Home Secretary Amber Rudd to examine the case.
He said: “This family has gone through an unimaginable amount of pain – from finding out that their son is still alive to the agony and frustration of the last six months trying to get Mohammed out of Syria.
“A Red Cross chaperone has been offered to take Mohammed across the border but the Home Office has advised against this because it is just too dangerous – this little boy is in an extremely vulnerable position and urgently needs our help to ensure that he can be reunited with his family in Scotland.
“In light of the exceptional circumstances in this case, I call on the Home Secretary to take immediate action to remove Mohammed from the imminent danger he faces.
“Unfortunately Mohammed is only one of thousands of children in a similar situation and the policy of reuniting children with their families must be re-examined.
“The UK government can and should do more to help the innocent people of Syria caught up in this devastating conflict.”
Mr Karou relived the moment four years ago when he feared his son had been killed.
He said: “I did not hear any news about my boy for a very long time and we thought he was dead. It was when Daesh came here and the fighting started between them and the Kurds, it was total warfare.
“There was bombing and we were in the middle of a warzone.
“We lost all contact with my boy. We tried mobile phones and the Internet but we heard nothing.”
He added: “The kids would always play in the neighbourhood and it had a good feel – there were Kurds, there were Christians and Muslims.
“They all played together, it was normal in those communities before Daesh arrived. There was the bombing all over the neighbourhood – it was chaos.
“Nobody specifically said my son was dead – they just said he was missing and after a while we assumed the worst.
“This all happened four years ago but I don’t know the exact date.
“It was when the war started. At the very beginning of the war the Kurds weren’t involved, then Daesh dragged us into it. I had no idea where my son was and the Lebanese gave me no help.
“My son did not know anything – we think he may have been in a camp. The situation in Lebanon was really bad. I only had the Internet for a short time, possibly once every ten days.”
He added: “It was very hard at first but I am willing to give my life just to see my boy.
“I know that the Scottish Government and local community have been really supportive and I appreciate that.”
A Home Office spokesperson said: “This is a complex case and we are carefully considering what options are available.”