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Qaed and his family's struggle to be reunited

Qaed and his family have very kindly agreed that we can share their story here.

Their journey demonstrates the enormous strength that’s required through the long journey to find safety and security.

It also shows the importance of legal support in confronting the barriers along the way. If you’d like to donate so we can support more people like Qaed, you can, here:

Statelessness and oppression

As Bidoons from Kuwait, Qaed and his family have no rights at home. They have no access to education or even the most basic healthcare and face regular harassment or worse from the state. Kuwaiti Bidoons (not to be confused with Bedouin) are denied citizenship and are left stateless. An incredibly precarious situation.

In Kuwait, the family lived in one small house with his wife and four children, his parents and his seven siblings and their families.

Like many others, Qaed was determined to push for change and took part in protests against these intolerable conditions. The government started cracking down. When they started arresting people, he knew he was in danger and needed to leave.

This wasn’t easy and he had to leave his wife and his children behind. He planned to find safety in Europe so that they could follow him.

“I miss my family, my siblings. You can’t have a happy life in Kuwait.”

A journey through Europe

Qaed first made it to Turkey before reaching Greece across the river at the border. He started travelling with a group and they supported one another, building strong bonds. Together, they decided to make the difficult journey to Finland. They’d heard that conditions were good there.

“There were lots of difficulties. We’d often have no food for a day or two days. Often having to sleep rough.”

When they got to Finland, it wasn’t what they expected. They were kept in a camp, he remained undocumented there and he could see no prospect of being joined by his family. Nothing seemed to be moving forward, he was stuck in limbo.

“The thing that kept me going was my children. All I was thinking about was a better future. In Kuwait, there is no future.”

Back to Greece

As things weren’t progressing, the family decided it was time to try to scrape the money together for Qaed’s wife and children to join him. He travelled back to Greece to meet them once they made it across the border. His family were tracing the same journey he’d taken before, facing considerable risks and serious danger.

Once they made it to Greece, things became slightly better. The family was back together and they had some access to food, clothes for the children and somewhere to stay. But they still weren’t able to find the stability to start a new life. They didn’t have enough money to feed the whole family and they were going without. All six of them were crammed into one room.

The family continued to look for real stability but couldn’t find this in Belgium or France. Eventually, Qaed decided to go to the UK and arrange for the family to follow.

To the UK and detention

At first, he was placed in a hotel in Liverpool. However, he was put into detention within days of arriving. He was moved to a detention centre somewhere near London. He’s still not exactly sure where.

He was due to be removed and was counting down the days to his flight. He was 24 hours from being removed when he had a reprieve as he found a solicitor to help him. His removal was stopped and with legal support, it was clear that Qaed needed protection and he was eventually granted asylum in the UK.

RLS’s work to bring the family back together

However, this was far from the end of his journey. His family was still stuck abroad without their father. This was where RLS’s family reunion project became so important. This is an area where there’s almost no other legal support available.

Home Office decision-making is slow. Alongside volunteer lawyers from Orrick, we’ve worked with Qaed and his family for two years now, and have:

  • Worked with him and his wife to provide detailed advice on the options available to them

  • Helped the family gather the evidence of their family relationship - this is a challenge as Kuwaiti Bidoons have no documentation

  • Drafted a statement with Qaed and his wife to detail their experiences and need to reunite

  • Collected documents from Greece and France

  • Obtained expert evidence to attest to the strength of the family relationship

  • Chased the Home Office for a decision

It took a long time, but we recently found out that the case has been successful. Qaed’s wife and children joined him last weekend.

A new life

Qaed and his family have been on the move for years, but they’re now getting to a point where they can start a new life. It would be a mistake to assume that things will be easy from here - we’re helping them to overcome a new set of administrative issues and they need help to find proper housing.

But they’re finally together, with secure status can and start to think of their future.

The strength that the family has shown to get to this point has been enormous. Most people would be broken and bitter from such an experience. But Qaed’s able to see the positives, constantly thanking those who have supported the family.

Asked what he’d tell others going through similar journeys, he replied “the journey will be difficult, with obstacles. Stay strong and carry on until you reach your destination.”


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