Syrian refugees now living in Glasgow, Mohamed, Amina and their five children stand togather and smile at the camera

Mohamed, Amina and their children © Emma Levy/British Red Cross

“We are a family again.”

Amina smiled as she described how it felt to be reunited with her husband Mohamed after years of being apart.

“The children were always asking about their dad.

“I sometimes didn’t know how to explain our situation to them. It was very difficult. I felt I wasn’t living – I was just existing.”

When violence first exploded in Syria, the family decided to leave their home in Aleppo to keep their five young children safe.

They eventually fled to the Syrian city of Afrin, living off their small savings.

Although they hoped to return to Aleppo one day, it was never safe to move back.

Mohamed eventually decided he had to leave his family behind and move to Turkey to help provide for them. Luckily, the borders between the two countries were open at that time.

He found work as a tailor to help make ends meet.

“My eldest son – he was 12 then – used to come to work with me sometimes, so that we could make enough money for the whole family,” Mohamed said.

How taking the second bus saved Amina’s life

One day when living in Afrin, Amina decided to travel back to Aleppo to see her home. She also hoped to bring back some belongings the family had left behind.

“There were two buses going to Aleppo that day. I boarded the second one,” Amina said.

“The first bus got bombed and all the people on it died.

“Our driver managed to swerve and avoid the other bus, but because of the sudden movement the bus ended up crashing. I was petrified.”

Since the crash, Amina has been living with chronic back pain.

Bringing the family together again

In 2015, Mohamed moved to the UK. He was granted refugee status five months later.

Immediately, the family started their family reunion application.

Family reunion is part of UK and international law and means that refugees can legally bring over their children and partners. But sometimes the process is not straightforward.

This was the case for Mohamed and his family: their first application was refused because of problems with stamps in their passports.

In their second application, they took DNA tests to prove they were related.

“Amina phoned me often to ask about progress,” Mohamed said.

“I didn’t have much to tell her because everything was moving extremely slowly.

“I was sending as much money as I could to them. My eldest son still had to work to support the family. The children couldn’t even go to school in Turkey.”

Finally, their application was approved and after a long wait Amina and the children were able to come to the UK.

The British Red Cross paid for their flights through our family reunion travel assistance programme.

Finding their feet in Glasgow

Since he arrived in Scotland, Mohamed has been supported by British Red Cross caseworker Lauren.

“Having Lauren’s support has made it much easier for us to find the ground under our feet in Glasgow,” he said.

Amina added, “I’m finally able to a see a GP on a regular basis for my chronic back pain.

“The children are all going to school now, and the youngest one, Njirvan, spends two days a week in a nursery.”

Mohamed is learning as well – he is practising his driving and plans to take his driving test soon.

But brothers don’t always agree

The three older boys, Aref, Michael and Jalal, are all passionate football players, while daughter Mawloda likes to draw.

“I train twice a week and play a match every week,” Michael said. “Jalal and I play for the same team.”

“We are both defensive midfielders,” Jalal added.

“But because we are brothers we don’t always agree on the tactics.”

There is one thing the family does agree on, though.

“We already know what car we are going to get,” Michael said.

“It is a big one, so that all of us can fit in it.”

Thank you to Mary Brown, British Red Cross media team intern, for her work on this blog.